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Anesthesiologists Call on Patients to Stop Taking Trendy Drug Before Surgery

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) recommends patients undergoing elective surgery stop taking a popular drug before the procedure to lower the odds of experiencing certain complications.

Prescribed primarily to help control type 2 diabetes, more patients are taking glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists (e.g., Ozempic, Rybelsus) to lose weight. These drugs can alleviate feelings of hunger, thus leading patients to eat less often.

“While there is currently a lack of scientific data on how GLP-1 receptor agonists affect patients having surgery and interact with anesthesia, we’ve received anecdotal reports that the delay in stomach emptying could be associated with an increased risk of regurgitation and aspiration of food into the airways and lungs during general anesthesia and deep sedation,” explained ASA President Michael W. Champeau, MD, FAAP, FASA. “These complications can be serious.”

For patients who take GLP-1 agonists daily, the ASA recommends they not take the drugs on the day of the procedure. For patients who use the medication weekly, cease taking the solution one week before surgery.

If a patient has not reported any gastrointestinal distress on the day of the procedure but did not stop taking a GLP-1 agonist, the ASA suggests either delaying the procedure or using an ultrasound to learn more about the stomach contents. Regardless of the situation, the ASA urged members of the surgical staff to discuss these risks with patients before an operation. The group also called for more research into these side effects.

For more on this and related subjects, be sure to read the “Pharmacology Update” feature that appears in each issue of Internal Medicine Alert.