Pre-existing health conditions usually place diabetics undergoing total joint replacement at a higher risk of experiencing complications after surgery.
According to a new study published in the July 2009 issue of The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (JBJS), those complications are less likely to occur when a diabetic patient has glucose levels under control.
"We found that controlled glucose levels really do make a difference for the patient," said study co-author Milford Marchant Jr., MD, an orthopaedic surgeon who conducted the study with colleagues of the Adult Reconstruction Section at Duke University Medical Center.
- More than 3 times as likely to experience a stroke or death after joint replacement surgery; and
- About twice as likely to experience post-operative bleeding and infection.
"It did not matter if the patient had Type I or Type II diabetes," explains Dr. Marchant. "Regardless of diabetes type, we found that patients had fewer complications after surgery if their glucose level was controlled before, during and after surgery."
Diabetic patients with uncontrolled glucose were more likely to experience surgical complications, infection, blood transfusions and longer hospitals stays.
"The factors necessary for diabetic patients to be considered 'under control' are different for each individual patient, therefore diabetic patients should have good relationships with their medical doctors," said Dr. Marchant.
Study authors say that according to the American Diabetes Association, disease control is determined for each patient based on a series of laboratory blood tests and an assessment of diabetes-related illnesses. Approximately 8 percent of patients undergoing total hip and knee replacement in the United States have diabetes.
"It is crucial that patients have glucose levels well managed before, during and after surgery because it reduces the potential of having a complication," notes Dr. Marchant. "This is the responsibility of both the patient and the surgeon, and it should be a priority."