Complications after joint surgery are increased by high blood sugar
How long it takes you to get over surgery will depend in part on how healthy and fit you are overall. A physically fit individual is likely to be walking sooner after a hip operation than someone whose muscle strength is low. Similarly, a smoker or heavy drinker is likely to take longer to get back to normal after any kind of surgery. Even psychological factors can affect recovery times. Now new research reveals that patients who have high blood glucose (hyperglycaemia) and/or who are obese are also more likely to suffer with site infections after an operation.
Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee looked at data from patients who had suffered orthopaedic injuries requiring surgery. To ensure accurate results, patients who had been diagnosed with diabetes were excluded from the study. The results revealed that patients with hyperglycemia (without a history of diabetes) were more likely to endure a longer hospital stay, had an increased likelihood of having to be taken into an intensive care unit and were also more likely to die. Thirty days after surgery 21 patients, of a total of 790, had surgical site infections. Of those, 4.4% had blood sugar levels of 200mg/dL (equivalent to 11.1 mmol/l), compared to only 1.6% who had blood sugar levels equal to or less than 200mg/dL. This significant difference indicates that raised blood sugar levels have an adverse effect on post-operative recovery and, say the researchers, medical professionals should take this into account when deciding how to treat patients with hyperglycaemia after an operation.
Another study looked at the relationship between obesity and post-operative recovery and found that it too increased the risk of infection. Looking at more than 7000 patients who had undergone hip or knee replacements, the researchers found that the infection rate rose from 0.37 in people with normal body weight to 4.66% in those who were classed as morbidly obese (BMI over 40). They also found that diabetes doubled the risk of infection after surgery.