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Wegovy, Ozempic Use Could Complicate Your Surgery
  • Posted March 6, 2024

Wegovy, Ozempic Use Could Complicate Your Surgery

Weight-loss drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic can increase a person's risk of throwing up during surgery while under anesthesia, a new study reports.

People are typically asked to fast prior to surgery because general anesthesia can cause nausea, and they might inhale and choke on their own vomit.

Unfortunately, part of the way that these drugs, called GLP-1 receptor agonists, help prompt weight loss is by slowing the digestion process, researchers explained. That means it takes longer for food to pass through the stomach.

About 56% of people on a weight-loss drug still had significant amounts of food in their stomach at the time of their surgery, as revealed by ultrasound, researchers reported March 6 in the journal JAMA Surgery.

Comparatively, only 19% of people not taking a GLP-1 receptor agonist had food left over in their stomach following preoperative fasting, results showed.

“More than half of the patients on a GLP-1 receptor agonist had significant gastric contents on gastric ultrasound before an elective procedure, despite adhering to preoperative fasting,” said lead researcher Dr. Sudipta Sen, an associate professor of anesthesiology with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

These results jibe with guidance issued last year by the American Society of Anesthesiologists that calls for screening for weight-loss drug use before surgery, and informing patients of the risks involved, researchers said.

Doctors should consider pausing the use of those drugs prior to surgery, the guidelines also state.

“Patients must ensure they disclose their use of this medication to their surgeons and anesthesiologists,” Sen added in a university news release. “This information is crucial for us to provide appropriate recommendations, such as adjusting drug administration before elective procedures, recommending extended fasting, or rescheduling an elective procedure if necessary.”

The research team decided to pursue this study based on anecdotal reports of people on weight-loss drugs aspirating their own vomit during surgery. This can increase risk of death by blocking the patient's breathing or causing pneumonia.

For this study, researchers performed ultrasound scans on more than 120 patients scheduled for elective procedures between June and July 2023.

Overall, the use of GLP-1 receptor agonists was associated with a nearly 31% prevalence of increased residual food in people's stomachs despite pre-surgery fasting, researchers found.

New treatment guidelines might be needed that extend fasting for people on weight-loss drugs, Sen concluded.

More information

The University of Iowa has more about fasting prior to surgery.

SOURCE: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, news release, March 6, 2024

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