Although the overall risk of infection for diabetics is low—6 percent—researchers at the U-M School of Public Health and colleagues at Wayne State University say patients with the disease are 50 percent more likely to have infections at the surgical site than nondiabetics.
Previous research has shown patients with diabetes are susceptible to surgical site infections after certain surgeries.
"The meta-analysis allowed us to see things we simply could not see before, namely, that diabetes increased a person's risk for infection in every type of surgery we looked at," said Emily Toth Martin, assistant professor of epidemiology and lead author of a study in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.
Martin and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of data from 94 articles from 1985-2015, from large and small health care organizations. From these studies, the researchers were able to find estimates for diabetes, blood glucose levels and body mass index.
They controlled for BMI and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar, not uncommon after surgery), but said it's possible other underlying health conditions may have contributed to the outcome.
"Some people have multiple chronic conditions (for example, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity), so we need to determine what it is that really contributes to their infections. Is it just one factor or chronic condition or are there multiple factors or chronic conditions that make people more susceptible to infection?"
Martin said the team's research shows that people with diabetes need to be proactive about their disease, and learn about infection prevention.
"There are things that can be done to reduce risk. Find out what they are and act on them," Martin said. "If that means stop smoking, stop smoking."
Richard Evans, a master's student at the School of Public Health, was a co-author.