Weight Loss Drugs Raise Surgery Risks

Weight loss and diabetes management drug has been linked to increased residual gastric content before anesthesia.

A study from UTHealth Houston, published in JAMA Surgery, found that patients using certain diabetes and weight management medications called GLP-1 RAs might face safety risks during anesthesia.

Led by Dr. Sudipta Sen and Dr. Omonele Nwokolo, the study showed that over half of these patients had food in their stomachs before surgery, even though they followed fasting rules. This could lead to a dangerous situation where stomach contents enter the lungs during anesthesia.

The research was prompted by reports of patients on GLP-1 RAs experiencing this issue despite fasting before surgery. These medications slow down stomach emptying, which can be seen using ultrasound as “full stomach.”

The study, involving over 120 patients, revealed that 56% of those on GLP-1 RAs had food in their stomachs compared to 19% of those not taking the medication. The findings suggest that fasting times for patients on GLP-1 RAs may need adjustment.

Patients should inform their doctors if they are taking these medications before surgery. Guidelines now suggest considering pausing GLP-1 RAs before elective surgery to reduce risks.

Dr. Nwokolo emphasises the importance of patients discussing their medication use openly before surgery to ensure safety.

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