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How should I prepare for elective surgery if I have diabetes?

Having surgery is enormously stressful for anyone -- but even more so for someone with diabetes. Managing your blood glucose before, during and after surgery is a huge task given the physiological stresses your body will be going through. It is very important, therefore, that you prepare properly for surgery. But what should you do?

Before you set a date for your surgery, you should visit the doctor who guides your diabetes treatment. You need to discuss with him or her how to get your diabetes in the best possible control in the weeks before your surgery. Can you fine-tune your treatment plan? Should you adjust your insulin before surgery? Do you need any special tests to check for possible problems during surgery? Your doctor can answer these questions.

In the week before your surgery, you need to test your blood glucose before each meal and at bedtime, if you don’t already. Most people with diabetes should aim for these target values:
  • Pre-meal target: 70 to 130 mg/dL
  • Bedtime target: 100 to 140 mg/dL
Follow your diabetes treatment plan faithfully. It’s more important than ever right now.

One day before your surgery, although you still need to test your blood glucose before each meal and at bedtime, now you also need to write down the values. Your doctor may need to refer to these readings.

If you have type 2 diabetes, continue taking your oral diabetes medications. Take the same pill(s) at the same time as usual, unless your doctor tells you not to.

If you have type 1 diabetes, continue taking your insulin or other injectable medication as usual, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.

Don’t eat or drink after midnight (12 AM). You can, however, drink a few sips of water if you’re thirsty.

If you are preparing for elective surgery and have diabetes, try to bring your A1C levels as close to normal as possible before you are hospitalized. This will help you withstand the stress of the surgery and may help reduce the chances of infection and speed healing after the operation.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.