Skip navigation

Preparing for surgery when you have diabetes

You may need surgery for a diabetes complication or some other problem. Your diabetes may increase your risk for problems during or after your surgery, such as:

  • Infection after surgery
  • Healing slower
  • Heart problems

Before surgery

Work with your doctor to come up with the safest surgery plan for you.

Focus more on controlling your diabetes during the weeks before surgery.

Your doctor will do a medical exam and talk to you about your health.

  • Tell your doctor about any medications you're taking.
  • If you take Metformin, talk to your doctor about stopping it. Usually, patients stop taking it 48 hours before and 48 hours after surgery to decrease the risk of lactic acidosis.
  • If you take insulin, ask your doctor what dose you should be taking the night before and the day of your surgery.

Surgery is riskier if you have diabetes complications. So talk to your doctor about your diabetes control and any complications you have from diabetes. Tell your doctor about any problems you have with your heart, kidneys, or eyes, or if you have loss of feeling in your feet. The doctor may run some tests to check the status of those problems.

During surgery

Talk to your doctor about maintaining good blood sugar levels during surgery. Your blood sugars should be between 80-150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) during the surgery. You may do better with surgery and get better faster if your blood sugars are controlled during surgery.

The doctor may use insulin and glucose infusions to keep your blood sugar steady during surgery.

After surgery

Check your blood sugars often. You may have more trouble controlling your sugars because you:

  • Have trouble eating
  • Are vomiting
  • Are stressed after surgery
  • Are less active than usual

Expect that you may take more time to heal because of your diabetes. Be prepared for a hospital stay if you are having major surgery. People with diabetes often have to stay in the hospital longer than people without diabetes.

Watch for signs of infection, such as a fever, or an incision that is red, hot to touch, or oozing.

Prevent bedsores. Move around in bed and get out of bed frequently. If you have less feeling in your toes and fingers, you may not feel if you are getting a bed sore. Make sure you move around.

When to call your doctor

Call your doctor if:

  • You have any questions about surgery or anesthesia
  • You are not sure what medicines you should take or stop before surgery
  • You think that you have an infection

References

Seballos, RJ. Preventative medicine: principles of screening. In: Carey, WD. Cleveland Clinic: Current Clinical Medicine. 2nd ed. Cleveland, OH: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:1266-1268.

Update Date: 8/4/2013

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

A.D.A.M Quality Logo

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 1997-2014, A.D.A.M., Inc. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized in writing by ADAM Health Solutions.

A.D.A.M Logo