Patient Care

Diabetes Mellitus Does Not Increase Risk of Surgical Complications after Elective Total Knee Replacement Surgery


Clinical question: Does uncontrolled diabetes mellitus increase risk for post-operative complications after elective joint replacement surgery?

Background: Several previous studies suggested that patients with uncontrolled diabetes could be at higher risk of postoperative complications and have worse functional outcomes after joint replacement surgery than patients without diabetes. Preoperative glycemic control is a potentially modifiable risk factor in patients undergoing elective joint replacement surgery. Demand for elective joint replacement is expected to increase over time, and reducing the risk of postoperative complications is essential in order to optimize functional outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.

Study design: Retrospective cohort.

Setting: Five regions of the Kaiser Permanente healthcare system.

Synopsis: The study included 40,491 patients aged 18 years and older who underwent primary knee replacement between January 2001 and December 2009 in five regions of the Kaiser Permanente system. Patients were identified using the Kaiser Permanente Total Joint Replacement Registry. Clinical information on each patient was collected from two years before the procedure to one year after the procedure using Kaiser Permanente electronic health records. Subjects were classified as nondiabetic (81.3%), diabetic with good glycemic control (12.5%), or diabetic with poor glycemic control (6.2%). Glycemic control status was assessed using the latest hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) value measured prior to the date of the index surgery, with HbA1c <7.0% defined as good glycemic control. Outcomes included revision arthroplasty, deep infection, DVT or PE, incident myocardial infarction, and rehospitalization.

There was no significant association identified between uncontrolled diabetes and any of the five outcomes.

Limitations of the study include retrospective design, rarity of all outcomes except all-cause rehospitalization, and the small number of patients with uncontrolled diabetes in the cohort. In addition, functional outcomes were not assessed in this study.

Bottom line: The effect of uncontrolled diabetes on the risk of adverse surgical outcomes following elective joint replacement remains unclear based on currently published data; more studies are needed.

Citation: Adams AL, Paxton EW, Wang JQ, et al. Surgical outcomes of total knee replacement according to diabetes status and glycemic control, 2001-2009. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2013;95:481-487.

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