Diabetics at Higher Risk of Elevated Blood Sugar Post-joint Surgery

People with diabetes are at distinctly increased risk of elevated blood sugar after they undergo joint replacement surgery, finds a new study. The increase in blood glucose levels after the operation increases their chances of developing infections and complications.


Previous studies have shown that high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, during the perioperative period of orthopedic joint replacement surgery is a risk factor for infection. The new study, by Bradford Waddell, MD, a hip and knee surgeon at HSS, took a narrower look at the question. It included patients with a diagnosis of diabetes whose blood sugar was being controlled using the hormone insulin and compared them to diabetics who did not require insulin. Patients requiring insulin can be considered to have more severe diabetes and have a greater chance of experiencing elevated blood glucose in the perioperative period, Dr. Waddell said.

‘Since diabetics are at higher risk of post-operative infections and complications, careful monitoring and control of the patients’ blood sugar levels are integral.’


For the new study, Dr. Waddell and his colleagues reviewed the medical charts of 773 men and women who had undergone total hip or knee replacement between 2011 and 2016. Of those, 437 had been diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes, while 336 had not been diagnosed with the condition.

Patients with insulin-dependent diabetes were more than five times as likely as those without the condition to develop hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, after surgery (odds ratio, 5.2; P

Despite the increased risk for elevations in blood sugar after surgery, however, the incidence of post-operative joint infections did not differ between the two groups of patients. However, Dr. Waddell noted that a limitation of the study was that it was underpowered to detect the risk of infection.

The bottom line for clinicians, Dr. Waddell said, is “if your patient comes in with diabetes and is dependent on insulin, you need to be more cognizant of controlling their blood sugar in the perioperative period because they’re at higher risk.”

Source: Eurekalert