Any surgical procedure carries certain risks, no matter how healthy you are. However, diabetics have additional concerns and should take some extra precautions when undergoing surgery.
Why is surgery risky for people with diabetes?
Therefore, it is highly recommended that diabetes patients who are planning to have surgery should achieve adequate control of their blood sugar levels. This is what can happen if your blood who levels are not properly controlled prior to your operation.
High blood sugar levels can cause a myriad of post-operative complications. High blood sugar levels increase both the risk and severity of different complications.
This refers to low blood sugar levels. Similar to hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia can significantly increase the risk of post-surgical complications.
Hyperglycemic hyperosmolar syndrome
Patients with diabetes can develop this dangerous condition in which they have high levels of glucose, dehydration, and reduced consciousness. This is a particularly relevant concern for diabetes patients who are undergoing certain surgical procedures such as a cardiac bypass surgery.
Diabetic ketoacidosis is a condition in which patients produce toxic molecules called ketones. Patients with diabetes have an impaired ability to metabolize glucose, which is the primary source of energy for humans. When glucose can no longer be metabolized, the body starts to burn fats instead. However, that leads to the production of ketones as byproducts, which can build up in the blood and be life-threatening. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a complication that can develop in patients with diabetes who undergo surgery due to surges in the levels of insulin. This, again, highlights the importance of having well-controlled diabetes before surgery.
Slow wound healing
Diabetes leads to slow wound healing, so diabetics undergoing surgery may rightfully fear that they won’t be able to heal properly, leading to an increased risk of infection.
Dysfunction of cells that line blood vessels, known as endothelial dysfunction. Patients with diabetes are more likely to have endothelial dysfunction, which means that they have an increased risk of blood vessel inflammation. This can affect blood clotting and the immune system, leading potential post-surgical complications.
Ischemia refers to a lack of blood supply to a specific part of the body, including the heart and brain. Diabetes patients are more likely to have ischemia, which is worsened in a post-surgical setting if blood glucose levels are not well controlled.
Risk factors for post-surgical complications in type 2 diabetics
Certain factors exacerbate the risk of post-surgical complications for patients with type 2 diabetes. These include:
- Age. The older you are when undergoing surgery, the higher your risk of complications.
- Treatment regimen. Some diabetes treatment regimens are more likely to cause complications.
- Diabetes management. The more well managed your diabetes is, the lower your risk of complications.
- Pre-existing conditions. Some pre-existing conditions make people more prone to having complications.
- Diet. Certain diets can cause complications post-surgically.
- Duration of diabetes. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to experience complications.
- General fitness. The more in shape you are, the more likely you won’t experience complications.
So, how do you lower your risk of developing post-surgical complications?
The most important thing to remember if you are diabetic is that controlling your blood sugar levels and keeping them in the normal range is your best way to help prevent long-term complications. To prevent complications, you must follow certain guidelines such as:
- Exercise more
- Eat a healthier diet with high amount of protein and lower amount of carbohydrates
- Lose weight
- Stay adherent to your medication
- Stay hydrated
- Lower your stress levels (which can also be helped by working out)
- Quit smoking
- Limit your alcohol intake
When should I contact a doctor for a potential post-surgical complication?
You should contact a doctor or go to your emergency department if you experience:
- Pus drainage from the surgical wound
- Pain of the wound
- Tenderness, swelling of the wound
- Hardness or redness of the wound
- Wound is hot to touch
- You feel fatigued and have a fever