Wound healing in the patient with diabetes mellitus

Nurs Clin North Am. 1990 Mar;25(1):247-61.


Reports of an increased incidence of wound complications in surgical patients with diabetes mellitus may actually reflect the increased incidence of general surgical risks or metabolic abnormalities associated with diabetes mellitus. Factors such as age, obesity, malnutrition, and macrovascular and microvascular disease may contribute to wound infection and delayed wound healing especially in the type II diabetic patient. In addition, hyperglycemia caused by decreased insulin availability and increased resistance to insulin can affect the cellular response to tissue injury. Studies of the immune cells necessary for wound healing, such as PMN leukocytes and fibroblasts, as well as studies of injured tissue suggest that there is a delayed response to injury and impaired functioning of immune cells in diabetes mellitus. There is evidence that these impairments may be the result of both an inherent (genetic) defect as well as decreased insulin availability and increased blood glucose concentration. At the time of hospital admission, little can be done to affect most of the risk factors or inherent cellular defects. However, blood glucose levels can be controlled with the use of bedside blood glucose monitoring and frequent adjustment of insulin dosing. Nurses have traditionally played an important role in monitoring recovery from surgery and watching for signs of infection and wound complications. These nursing functions are especially important in the diabetic patient. In addition, frequent evaluation of the effectiveness of insulin therapy is an important nursing function throughout the perioperative period. Through improving management of blood glucose levels in surgical patients, nurses can have a major impact on the incidence of wound complications in diabetes mellitus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus / nursing
  • Diabetes Mellitus / physiopathology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / physiopathology
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Neutrophils / physiology
  • Postoperative Complications / physiopathology
  • Rats
  • Risk Factors
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative
  • Wound Healing / physiology*


  • Blood Glucose