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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


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

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