High Blood Sugar Levels Increase Infection Risk From General Surgery


High blood sugar levels can increase the risk of surgical site infections in patients having general surgery, researchers report. Doctors have long been aware that people with diabetes are more prone to surgical infections, and the relationship between high blood sugar and increased risk of infection after surgery is well known in heart and intensive care unit surgery, where blood sugar is carefully monitored. But this appears to be the first study to quantify the risk after general surgery, noted the study authors, from Albany Medical College in New York.

"We wanted to find out how much increased glucose in your blood had a role in infection in general surgery," said lead researcher Ashar Ata, from the College's Department of Surgery. "Surprisingly, we did find that by the time your glucose is higher than 140 milligrams per deciliter, the infection went from 1.8 percent to almost 10 percent." When blood sugar levels reach that point, medical staff should intervene to control them, Ata said, adding, "We found the higher the blood glucose, starting at about 110 milligrams per deciliter, the more likely you are to have an infection."

The report is published in the September issue of the Archives of Surgery. The procedures Ata's group looked at included appendectomy, colon surgery, hemorrhoid removal and gallbladder removal, he said. These operations all fall under the definition of general surgery. For the study, Ata's team looked at medical records of 2,090 patients who had had general or vascular surgery between Nov. 1, 2006, and April 30, 2009. Among these patients, the researchers studied the blood sugar levels of 1,561 patients, including those who had vascular surgery, colorectal surgery and other types of general surgery.
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