Published on 29 October 2015

A recent study by researchers in the US has found that people with diabetes face a greater risk of infection following surgery.

Researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and colleagues at Wayne State University found that people with diabetes were 50% more likely to have infections at the surgical site than those without the condition. However, it should be noted that the overall risk of developing an infection following most types of surgery for people with diabetes was low - 6%.

Previous research had suggested that people with diabetes were more prone to surgical site infections after certain surgeries.

People with diabetes may be at higher risk of infection following surgery

Emily Toth Martin, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and lead author of the study recently published in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, said: “The meta-analysis allowed us to see things we simply could not see before, namely, that diabetes increased a person's risk for infection in every type of surgery we looked at.”

Martin and colleagues conducted their study based on figures from 94 articles from 1985-2015, from large and small healthcare organisations. From these studies, the researchers were able to find estimates for diabetes, blood glucose levels and body mass index (BMI).

The researchers were able to identify BMI and hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar, not uncommon after surgery) as possible risk factors, but added that it was possible other underlying health conditions may have contributed to infections after surgery.

Professor Martin said: “Some people have multiple chronic conditions (for example, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity), so we need to determine what it is that really contributes to their infections. Is it just one factor or chronic condition, or are there multiple factors or chronic conditions that make people more susceptible to infection?”

Martin added that the team’s research showed that people with diabetes need to be proactive about their disease, and learn about infection prevention: “There are things that can be done to reduce risk. Find out what they are and act on them. If that means stop smoking, stop smoking.”

The study concluded that continued efforts were needed to improve surgical outcomes for people with diabetes.

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