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October 10, 2002

Surgery

Question from Baltimore, Maryland, USA:

My girlfriend, who has type�2 diabetes, is scheduled to have knee surgery. Is it standard procedure for people with diabetes to be given antibiotics prior to their operations to help fight off possible infection?

Answer:

The use of antibiotics prior to or during surgery for the prevention of infection is still performed routinely by surgeons. If the knee surgery requires instrumentation within the joint or the use of a foreign body, it is common practice to administer an intravenous antibiotic during the surgery. The choice of the antibiotic is geared toward the treatment of bacteria that may live on the skin and could infect the joint space of the foreign body. I am not aware that oral antibiotics for prolonged periods prior to surgery are used, unless the physician fears that there is already an area of infection that needs to be treated before the surgery can occur.

JTL

[Editor’s comment: The decision to use an antibiotic in this situation has nothing to do with whether the patient has diabetes.

WWQ]