Quantifying the Effect of Diabetes on Surgical Hand and Forearm Infections

Ketan Sharma, Deng Pan, James Friedman, Jenny L. Yu, Aaron Mull, Amy M. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Purpose: Diabetes has long been established as a risk factor for hand and forearm infections. The purpose of this study was to review the effect of glycemic factors on outcomes among diabetic patients with surgical upper-extremity infections. We hypothesized that diabetic inpatients may benefit from stronger peri-infection glycemic control. Methods: A prospective cohort study enrolled diabetic and nondiabetic surgical hand and forearm infections over 3 years. Glycemic factors included baseline glycosylated hemoglobin, blood glucose (BG) at presentation, and inpatient BG. Poor baseline control was defined as glycosylated hemoglobin of 9.0% or greater and poor inpatient control as average BG of 180 mg/dL or greater. The main outcome of interest was the need for repeat therapeutic drainage. Multivariable logistic regression quantified the association between diabetic factors and this outcome. Results: The study involved 322 patients: 76 diabetic and 246 nondiabetic. Diabetic infections were more likely than nondiabetic infections to result from idiopathic mechanisms, occur in the forearm, and present as osteomyelitis, septic arthritis, and necrotizing fasciitis. Diabetic microbiology was more likely polymicrobial and fungal. After first drainage, diabetic patients were more likely to require repeat drainage and undergo eventual amputation. Among diabetic patients, poor inpatient control was associated with need for repeat drainage. Conclusions: Diabetes exacerbates the burden of surgical upper-extremity infections: specifically, more proximal locations, deeper involved anatomy at presentation, broader pathogenic microbiology, increased need for repeat drainage, and higher risk for amputation. Among diabetic patients, poor inpatient glycemic control is associated with increased need for repeat drainage. Type of study/level of evidence: Prognostic I.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-114
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2018


  • Diabetes
  • glycemic control
  • infections


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