Knee problems, such as arthritis, are common conditions often associated with seniors. However, age is not the only risk factor that exposes adults to debilitating knee conditions— chronic long-term diseases like diabetes can also play a major role.
Diabetes is a common chronic disorder that affects about 10% of the American population. It is a lifestyle disease characterized by the body’s inability to produce insulin (a hormone that metabolizes blood sugar) or effectively utilize it.
Without insulin, the body is left with too much sugar in the bloodstream, causing plenty of negative systemic changes, such as:
- Cartilage stiffness and bone and joint fragility due to increased production of ROS.
- Breakdown of the musculoskeletal system
- Nerve damage
These symptoms can become more severe over time and—without proper intervention—can lead to full-blown knee injuries such as osteoarthritis, diabetic arthropathy, or fracture injury. A knee replacement surgery may be recommended for knee conditions and injuries that are negatively affecting one’s quality of life. But is it safe to undergo such an operation if you have diabetes? Keep reading to learn more.
What is knee replacement surgery?
A knee replacement surgery, or knee arthroplasty, refers to a common surgical procedure to treat various knee joint problems. In this procedure, the surgeon will remove the damaged parts of the knee joint and then replace them with new, artificial parts made of plastic and metal.
Knee replacement surgery is frequently performed to treat and manage conditions causing knee pain and mobility problems. Some examples include the following:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Post-traumatic arthritis
Most patients who undergo this type of procedure experience a significant reduction in pain and improvement in joint mobility. In fact, studies suggest that more than 90% of total knee replacements still function well and are in good condition after 15 years.
It’s important to know that a knee replacement won’t be able to restore perfect knee function. It can, however, bring back your ability to perform daily tasks and activities and allow you to enjoy an active life.
Why are knee replacements risky for diabetic patients?
Every surgical procedure, no matter how minor, comes with risks and possible health complications. However, if you have diabetes, then this risk becomes even more pronounced due to your underlying condition.
Individuals with diabetes face more risks, not just with knee replacement but with any other type of surgical procedure. The chronic effects of diabetes on the body can cause the following surgery risks:
Increased risk of wound infection
Patients with long-term diabetes have a two-fold risk of acquiring post-surgical infection due to their weakened immune system. This is mainly caused by the high sugar levels in the bloodstream, impairing the ability of white blood cells to migrate to the site of the wound.
Diabetes also causes slow wound healing as a result of impaired or stiff blood vessels, causing poor blood circulation. This then results in reduced blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients in the injured area. When there’s delayed healing, then comes the possibility of infection.
Patients with diabetes have abnormal electrolyte levels (Na and K) brought by osmotic diuresis or increased urination. The fluctuating electrolyte levels can then cause affect and cause a major problem to the fluid levels and the heart.
Kidney problems and heart problems
Patients with chronic or long-term diabetes often develop kidney and heart problems in the long-run. Simultaneously having three types of chronic illnesses makes any surgical procedure risky.
Furthermore, studies suggest that diabetic patients face a higher risk of developing infection around the implant, joint loosening, and fracture post-surgery.
Is knee replacement safe for diabetic patients?
There is a limited number of studies about the safety and effectiveness of knee replacement surgeries for patients with diabetes. But current research states that the benefits of a knee arthroplasty far outweigh the possible diabetes-related surgical complications.
Moreover, a study conducted by the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery found that having a high blood sugar level does not necessarily equate to a negative surgical outcome. There’s actually no difference in the frequency of complications in patients with diabetes and those who do not have the condition.
Any type of surgical procedure should be met with caution, especially for patients with diabetes. Orthopedic surgeons should talk to their clients about the risks and benefits of knee replacement surgery so they can make an informed decision.
How can diabetic patients prepare for their surgery?
A knee replacement is a safe and effective procedure that has already benefited thousands of patients. But to ensure success, patients and doctors should work together and come up with a pre-operative plan for a hassle-free surgery.
Here are some simple ways how you or your orthopedic specialist may prepare for the surgery:
- Patients will undergo a medical examination assessing their physical health through blood tests, radiologic imaging, and heart function screening.
- Patients should disclose their medical history to their doctor, specifically their current medications. Your physician may instruct you to stop taking certain diabetes medications for a specific number of hours or days.
- Patients will meet with a nutritionist or dietitian regarding their meal and activity plan a week before the surgery.
All of these instructions should be performed to manage the patient’s blood sugar level before and after the surgery. Ideally, a patient should have an HbA1c level of 7.5 or lower for at least three months before a doctor clears them for surgery.
Where to find the best orthopedic doctors in Brooksville, FL?
The success of a knee replacement surgery not only depends on the patient’s underlying condition but also on how well an orthopedic specialist prepares their patient.
Our board-certified physician, Dr. Imad E. Tarabishy, is specially trained to handle complex cases and surgical procedures using advanced techniques and equipment. One of the surgeries in which he specializes is knee replacement surgery in the Spring Hill area.
Tarabishy Orthopedics also offers a wide range of services to treat various orthopedic problems. This includes the following:
- Knee arthroscopy
- Hip replacement
- Carpal tunnel release
- Mako robotic surgery
- Iovera treatment or nerve freezing
- Shoulder arthroscopy
Contact us now to learn more!
The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.