A study has shown that diabetic patients who undergo heart-bypass surgery had significantly reduced long-term survival and more deaths from heart-related causes, compared with non-diabetics.
Dr Philip Pang of the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS), who was one of the study’s authors, said that “aggressive treatment” of diabetes and other chronic conditions, as well as the stubbing out of any smoking habits, are essential to improve long-term survival in diabetic patients. Such treatment includes having the right diet and medication, regular eye, urine and neurological screenings for complications associated with diabetes, and maintaining optimal blood-sugar levels.
The study reviewed 5,720 patients who underwent heart-bypass surgery between 1982 and 1999 at NHCS.
Diabetes’ negative effects on the cardiovascular system include the dysfunction of the blood vessels’ inner lining, the tendency for inflammation and formation of clots, contributing to the blockage of blood vessels, said Dr Pang.
In the long term, poorly controlled diabetes may speed up the build-up of plaque inside one’s arteries, as well as the bypass grafts, increasing the risk of heart-related complications such as heart attacks.
“Diabetes is an epidemic in our part of the world, and causes heavy socio-economical damage to our country and our patients.”
- Dr Philip Pang, National Heart Centre Singapore, one of the authors of the study
Patients with untreated or poorly controlled diabetes who undergo heart-bypass surgery also face a higher risk of wound infections, some of which are potentially fatal, he said.
“It can also result in multiple end-organ damage that may lead to kidney failure, stroke and leg gangrene leading to amputation,” he said.
Doctors tend to advise a more aggressive and definitive therapy for diabetic patients with heart vessel disease, he added. “Diabetes is an epidemic in our part of the world, and causes heavy socio-economical damage to our country and our patients.”
Diabetes care in Singapore is already costing more than S$1 billion a year. Of more than 400,000 diabetics here, one in three does not even know he or she has the disease.
The study was published in the March issue of ANNALS, the medical journal of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore.

This story was first published on TODAY on 11 May, 2016.