Diabetes and Complications

Study Finds Diabetes May Not Increase Risks Associated with Knee Replacement

Previous research has suggested there is a link between diabetes and complications after a knee replacement. For example, a 2009 Duke University study found that postoperative strokes and wound infections were more common in patients with uncontrolled diabetes than those without the disease. Postsurgical complications were suggested to be more common in diabetics because of higher levels of glucose in their blood, which has a negative effect on multiple organs and systems in the body.


A recent study by Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research and Evaluation contradicts those findings, showing those with diabetes are no more likely to suffer from infections or other post-surgical issues than those without it. Diabetic patients are also not at a higher risk of getting deep infection, pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or revision surgery (an operation to replace a failed implant).

More than 40,000 total knee replacement patient records from 2001 to 2009 were examined for this study. A total of 12.5 percent of patients had controlled diabetes and 6.2 percent had uncontrolled. The findings showed that 1.1 percent of those patients had to have revision surgery, 0.7 percent got a deep infection and 1 percent suffered from a heart attack.

The study concluded there was not a significant increase in the rise of complications after surgery with patients who had diabetes over those who didn’t. Other factors, such as obesity, probably come into play when recovering from knee surgery and diabetes doesn’t seem to add risk on its own. In fact, approximately 57 percent of diabetic patients who had a knee replacement were obese and only about 40 percent of those without diabetes were obese.

Overall, complications from total knee replacements are fairly uncommon. Whether a patient is diabetic or not, knee surgery can improve mobility and quality of life. Check with an orthopedic surgeon to find out if knee replacement is the right choice because a doctor will consider and discuss all health factors and risks with you before surgery.