Association of preoperative hemoglobin A1C and body mass index with wound infection rate in spinal surgery

Miner N. Ross, Sudarshan Iyer, Kenneth R. Gundle, Donald A. Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The deleterious effect of diabetes mellitus on surgical outcomes is well documented for joint replacement surgery. We analyzed the large national US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) database for patients who had undergone elective spinal surgery. Methods: We retrospectively searched the VA database and identified 174 520 spine cases. Results: There were 7766 (4.5%) wound infections and 49 271 (28%) had hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) testing (range: 3.0-17.8) prior to surgery. In the preoperative HbA1c-checked group, there were 2941 (6.0% of 49 271) infections and in the without-preoperative HbA1c group, there were 4825 (3.9% of 125 249) infections. The distribution of infections was significantly different (v2 = 372.577, P,.0001) and suggests a 2.12% increase in the absolute risk of infection based on the presence of preoperative HbA1c testing, regardless of the result. Logistic regression revealed a preoperative HbA1c test was associated with an odds ratio of 1.435 for infection (confidence interval 1.367-1.505, P,.0001). In a separate model based on HbA1c levels, we found that HbA1c is a significant predictor of infection with an odds ratio of 1.042 (confidence interval 1.017-1.068, P =.0009) for each 1% increase in the test result. This analysis differs from using a strict cutoff value of HbA1c of 6.5%. Similar testing for body mass index and age yielded an odds ratio of 1.027 for each increase of 1 kg/m2 and an odds ratio of 1.009 for each 1-year increase in age respectively. Conclusions: Hemoglobin A1c testing, HgA1c value, body mass index, and age all contribute to the risk of wound infection after elective spine surgery in a large national VA population. These data can be used to estimate surgical risks and to aid in patient counseling about proposed spine surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)811-817
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Spine Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021


  • BMI
  • Hemoglobin A1c
  • Spine
  • Veterans
  • Wound infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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