Continuous Intravenous Insulin Infusion Reduces the Incidence of Deep Sternal Wound Infection in Diabetic Patients After Cardiac Surgical Procedures

Ann Thorac Surg. 1999 Feb;67(2):352-60; discussion 360-2. doi: 10.1016/s0003-4975(99)00014-4.


Background: Diabetes mellitus is a risk factor for deep sternal wound infection after open heart surgical procedures. We previously showed that elevated postoperative blood glucose levels are a predictor of deep sternal wound infection in diabetic patients. Therefore, we hypothesized that aggressive intravenous pharmacologic control of postoperative blood glucose levels would reduce the incidence of deep sternal wound infection.

Methods: In a prospective study of 2,467 consecutive diabetic patients who underwent open heart surgical procedures between 1987 and 1997, perioperative blood glucose levels were recorded every 1 to 2 hours. Patients were classified into two sequential groups: the control group included 968 patients treated with sliding-scale-guided intermittent subcutaneous insulin injections (SQI); the study group included 1,499 patients treated with a continuous intravenous insulin infusion in an attempt to maintain a blood glucose level of less than 200 mg/dL. There were no differences between these groups with respect to age, sex, procedure, bypass time, antibiotic prophylaxis, or skin preparation methods.

Results: Compared with subcutaneous insulin injections, continuous intravenous insulin infusion induced a significant reduction in perioperative blood glucose levels, which led to a significant reduction in the incidence of deep sternal wound infection in the continuous intravenous insulin infusion group (0.8% [12 of 1,499]) versus the intermittent subcutaneous insulin injection group (2.0% [19 of 968], p = 0.01 by the chi2 test). Multivariate logistic regression revealed that continuous intravenous insulin infusion induced a significant decrease in the risk of deep sternal wound infection (p = 0.005; relative risk, 0.34), whereas obesity (p < 0.03; relative risk, 1.06) and use of an internal thoracic artery pedicle (p = 0.1; relative risk, 2.0) increased the risk of deep sternal wound infection.

Conclusions: Use of perioperative continuous intravenous insulin infusion in diabetic patients undergoing open heart surgical procedures significantly reduces major infectious morbidity and its associated socioeconomic costs.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Coronary Artery Bypass
  • Coronary Disease / surgery*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Heart Valve Diseases / surgery*
  • Heart Valve Prosthesis Implantation
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Insulin / administration & dosage*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / blood
  • Postoperative Complications / drug therapy
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Risk
  • Sternum / surgery*
  • Surgical Wound Infection / prevention & control*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin