Heart Health

Updated 07 October 2014

Heart bypass patients may not need tight blood sugar control

New research suggests that tight blood glucose control after heart bypass surgery is not as vital as previously thought.


Heart bypass patients might not need to follow strict blood sugar control after their surgery, according to a new study.

Some previous research suggested that high blood sugar (glucose) after bypass and other types of heart surgery was associated with increased risk of health problems and death, but more recent research has found that might not be the case.

This new study included heart bypass patients, with and without diabetes, who were randomly assigned to tight blood sugar control or less strict blood sugar control. As long as blood sugar levels were kept below 180 mg/dL, both groups of patients had similar survival rates while in the hospital recovering from surgery, the researchers found.

Both groups also had similar improvements in health-related quality of life six months after surgery, according to the study in the October issue of the Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

The findings were the same for patients with and without diabetes.

Read: High blood sugar levels increase infection risk after general surgery

Hospitals should consider less strict control

"We hope that these results will encourage more hospitals to consider a less strict control of blood sugar in all patients after heart bypass surgery, which could reduce the chances for hypoglycaemic [low blood sugar] events in the hospital, as well as secondary complications from drops in blood sugar," study author Dr. A. Thomas Pezzella, of Inova Heart and Vascular Institute in Falls Church, Va., said in a journal news release.

The results provide some reassurance to heart surgery patients, but one limitation of the study is that it reported only on survival, Dr. Harold Lazar, of Boston Medical Centre, said in an accompanying commentary.

"We don't know if there were differences in cardiac-related issues, such as heart attacks, recurrent angina, need for repeat coronary revascularization procedures, or long-term readmissions for acute coronary syndromes," Lazar noted.

"This is important for future research since many of these patients have other co-morbid diseases that are not related to their heart," he explained.

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