Effect of A1C and Glucose on Postoperative Mortality in Noncardiac and Cardiac Surgeries

Diabetes Care. 2018 Apr;41(4):782-788. doi: 10.2337/dc17-2232. Epub 2018 Feb 13.


Objective: Hemoglobin A1c (A1C) is used in assessment of patients for elective surgeries because hyperglycemia increases risk of adverse events. However, the interplay of A1C, glucose, and surgical outcomes remains unclarified, with often only two of these three factors considered simultaneously. We assessed the association of preoperative A1C with perioperative glucose control and their relationship with 30-day mortality.

Research design and methods: Retrospective analysis on 431,480 surgeries within the Duke University Health System determined the association of preoperative A1C with perioperative glucose (averaged over the first 3 postoperative days) and 30-day mortality among 6,684 noncardiac and 6,393 cardiac surgeries with A1C and glucose measurements. A generalized additive model was used, enabling nonlinear relationships.

Results: A1C and glucose were strongly associated. Glucose and mortality were positively associated for noncardiac cases: 1.0% mortality at mean glucose of 100 mg/dL and 1.6% at mean glucose of 200 mg/dL. For cardiac procedures, there was a striking U-shaped relationship between glucose and mortality, ranging from 4.5% at 100 mg/dL to a nadir of 1.5% at 140 mg/dL and rising again to 6.9% at 200 mg/dL. A1C and 30-day mortality were not associated when controlling for glucose in noncardiac or cardiac procedures.

Conclusions: Although A1C is positively associated with perioperative glucose, it is not associated with increased 30-day mortality after controlling for glucose. Perioperative glucose predicts 30-day mortality, linearly in noncardiac and nonlinearly in cardiac procedures. This confirms that perioperative glucose control is related to surgical outcomes but that A1C, reflecting antecedent glycemia, is a less useful predictor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Glucose / physiology*
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / mortality
  • Female
  • Glycated Hemoglobin / analysis
  • Glycated Hemoglobin / physiology*
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / blood
  • Hyperglycemia / mortality*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / blood
  • Postoperative Complications / mortality*
  • Postoperative Period
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A