surgical complications of diabetes

One of the ugly realities of having diabetes is the possibility of surgical complications and amputations to manage the spread of the disease symptoms.  If you have come to this stage in its progression, you may feel overwhelmed and depressed just because a surgery is necessary, and try to push it out of your mind. Unfortunately, this may do you more harm than good in the long run.

Knowing about the unique risks you face as a diabetic undergoing surgery can help you to prepare for it in the best way possible to ensure a successful procedure. As always, consult with your health care professional about your individual risk assessment and personal treatment program before trying anything new. This article is designed to help you understand some common surgical complications of diabetes you may face while undergoing surgery, and to give you an aide to know what you should talk with your doctor about when planning your procedure.

One of the most common surgical complications of diabetes relates to:

  • infection at the site of the surgery
  • healing more slowly than expected
  • heart problems
  • fluid/ electrolyte issues
  • kidney problems.

Knowing that you have an increased risk for complications can allow you the opportunity to prepare more thoroughly for your procedure. The following are a few tips to help you for each stage of your procedure.

Before Surgery:

  • Focus on managing your diabetes as carefully as possible in the days/ weeks before your surgery. Talk to your doctor about your target sugar levels, and create a safety plan with them for the procedure.
  • Sometimes your health care provider will refer you to a dietician for the week preceding the operation to set a strict plan for activity and meals.
  • Make sure you tell your surgeon about any and all medicines you take. If you use metformin, or any SGLT2 inhibitors (gliflozins), talk to your doctor about stopping them before the procedure, as they have been linked to complications. You can also call your insulin provider and see what is recommended for your particular brand during surgeries.
  • Your insulin will be administered during the surgery by an anesthesiologist. Try to make an appointment to meet with them before surgery and discuss your normal levels and dosages.
  • Know that if your levels are too high, your surgery may be cancelled by your doctor when you arrive. It is better to get things under control the first time than to have to postpone the event.

After Surgery:

  • Make sure that you (or your nurses) are monitoring your blood sugar levels often. This can help you to return to a normal balance quicker and help aide a speedy recovery.
  • Be prepared that you may need to stay in the hospital longer than normal if you have undergone a major procedure. It is normal for diabetics to take longer to recover from surgery.
  • Conduct your normal checks for bedsores, and foot care more regularly. You may have difficulty feeling pain because of any post operative medications you take, so it is important to get out of bed and keep moving to prevent sores.
  • Watch out for infections! Just like bedsores, it may be harder for you to notice signs of fever than you normally would. Watch for redness around your incision sight, and alert your health care providers to any changes. 

The best and most effective way to avoid complications surrounding surgery as a diabetic is to communicate openly with your healthcare team. Voice your concerns about your aftercare, and allow them to help you recover in the best available manner. Your team’s main goal is to see you healthy and back to retain the highest quality of life possible, as quickly as possible. Work with them, and let them help you heal.

With diligent, informed care, the surgical complications of diabetes can be easily minimized to ensure proper healing and a full return to normalcy.