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Diabetics and Open Heart Surgery

People who are diabetic have a greater chance of having a delayed healing process after open heart surgery than people who don't have diabetes. Infections are also a major concern for diabetics, and open heart surgery puts them at higher risk. With the knowledge that the patient is diabetic, the doctor will treat any early suspected infections more aggressively.

(Technically speaking, an open heart surgery is any procedure where the chest is opened, which certainly includes procedures beyond a heart bypass (a valve replacement, for example). However, because a heart bypass is the most common type of open heart surgery, for the purposes of this article, we will be using the terms "bypass" and "open heart surgery" interchangeably.)

Diabetics and Open Heart Surgery: Complications

As a diabetic, your risks for open heart surgery complications are higher, and you are more likely to have infections or a delayed healing process. For these reasons, it is important for you to keep all scheduled follow-up appointments and return sooner if any of the previously mentioned symptoms develop. Infections are also a major concern for this procedure, and your doctor will treat any early suspected infections more aggressively, based on the knowledge that you are diabetic.
Because of the risks involved with open heart surgery, it is essential for you to communicate with your healthcare providers throughout the procedure so that they can minimize any possible problems. Your team is trained to observe, evaluate, and respond to any unusual situations that arise.

Diabetics and Open Heart Surgery: Leaving the Hospital

As a diabetic, you probably know a lot about the signs and symptoms that go along with abnormal blood sugar levels.
These include:
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty with your vision
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Feeling slow or tired
  • Not getting better from a cold or flu
  • Having infections that don't go away or don't get better
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Needing to go to the bathroom a lot
  • Feeling hungry all of the time.
After your open heart surgery, these symptoms may indicate a problem. For example, an infection at the procedure site can make blood sugar control difficult and may require IV antibiotics to treat the infection. To help identify what is causing the symptoms, you may be asked to have more frequent blood sugar checks. It is important to report any changes to your doctor as soon as possible so that the appropriate treatment can be started if necessary.
In addition, if you take oral medication for your diabetes, you may have to go on insulin following the procedure due to the stress of the surgery. This will only be temporary.
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