High Blood Sugar Levels After Surgery

How Diabetes and Blood Glucose Levels Can Affect Your Surgery Outcome

doctor talking to patient, surgeon talking to patient
Talk to Your Doctor About Your Diabetes. Hero Images/Getty Images

If you are a diabetic, you may be concerned about your blood sugar levels during surgery and later during your recovery. It is reasonable to be concerned, and it is appropriate to take steps to prepare to control glucose levels before, during, and after surgery.

Non-Diabetics Are at Risk Too

Even non-diabetics can experience issues with blood sugar levels after a procedure. The physical and emotional stress of a surgical procedure, along with what can be significant changes in lifestyle, diet, and exercise before and after surgery, can dramatically change an individual's glucose levels. Though all patients are at risk for high blood sugar levels after surgery due to stress, diabetics face even greater risks of complications after a procedure.

Blood Sugar and Surgical Complications

Uncontrolled blood glucose can create complications for surgery patients, diabetic or not. Blood sugar that's even slightly elevated can lead to delayed healing and can increase your chances of getting a wound infection from less than 2 percent to over 10 percent. In general, the higher the blood sugar, the higher these risks.

This increase in risk is why you may find that even as a non-diabetic you are having routine or even frequent glucose checks while recovering in the hospital after surgery.

Do More Frequent Glucose Level Checking

Make sure your doctor has your blood sugar checked before meals and at bedtime while you're in the hospital if you're diabetic. Checking your glucose during surgery is reasonable if the surgery is a lengthy one or if your glucose levels have been unpredictable.

Even diabetics who are normally well controlled with diet and exercise can experience high levels of blood glucose during the hours and days following surgery. If your glucose is fluctuating widely between checks, you may even need to have it checked during the night if you're having symptoms of low or high blood glucose.

If you are having a same-day surgery, have your blood glucose level checked before you leave the facility. If you are diabetic, you may want to test more frequently once you're home until your wound is completely healed.

Controlling Blood Sugar Levels After Surgery

Your diabetes needs to be well controlled after your surgery to prevent complications such as wound infections, slow healing, and increased scarring. If your track record of taking care of yourself, taking your medications as prescribed, and routinely checking your glucose level is poor, the recovery phase after surgery is definitely not the time to continue this self-destructive pattern. 

Eating appropriate foods after surgery, frequently checking your glucose levels, and taking your insulin or other diabetes medications as prescribed is essential to a quick and healthy recovery from surgery. This one change in your daily routine may have the single largest impact on how well and how quickly you heal after surgery--and if you have an infection while you are trying to get better.

Exercise is an important part of recovery for diabetics and non-diabetics alike and will help control glucose levels. Your surgeon will be the best judge of what type of physical activity is possible after surgery and how quickly you can attempt more strenuous exercise during your recovery. 

A Word From Verywell

Diabetes can be challenging to deal with, and that is particularly true when recovering from surgery. It is worth the time and effort to control glucose levels—both after surgery and as a daily routine—to maintain good health and wellbeing. Healing faster and avoiding infection is a bonus during the post-operative period, but living longer and feeling better is absolutely a worthwhile goal for every day.

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