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Popular Medications for Diabetes and Weight Loss Should Be Stopped Prior to Elective Surgery

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In June 2023, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) released information strongly recommending that patients undergoing elective surgery withhold their glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist medications. This measure is crucial for minimizing the potential complications caused by anesthesia during surgical procedures.

How Do These Medications Work?

Semaglutide, commonly known as Ozempic or Wegovy, belongs to the powerful class of medications known as glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 agonists). These potent drugs were initially developed to treat type 2 diabetes but have since demonstrated remarkable benefits beyond diabetic management. Upon consumption, Semaglutide swiftly prompts the body to increase insulin production in response to post-meal blood sugar elevation, effectively regulating blood glucose levels.

In recent years, there has been a surge in the use of these medications beyond diabetes management to aid individuals in weight loss. The medication effectively suppresses appetite by slowing down digestion and curbing hunger, leading to a significant reduction in food intake. As a result, individuals can achieve faster and more efficient weight loss.

Stopping Medication Before Surgery

The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) strongly advises patients to discontinue using Ozempic and other glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists before surgery. These medications delay gastric emptying, significantly prolonging the time food takes to leave the stomach. If a patient were to vomit, the chances of aspiration, where food or vomit is inhaled into the lungs, are significantly heightened. This can result in severe complications or even death.

How to Stop Medication

Some medications may need to be stopped before surgery due to potential interactions with anesthesia or other medications being used during the procedure. However, stopping certain medications can create health complications or negatively impact the outcome of the surgery. It is best to follow your doctor's instructions and communicate any concerns or questions.

Diabetic Patients

For patients taking these medications for diabetes, it is not always possible to stop taking these medications entirely. However, your doctor may be able to prescribe you an alternative medication for a period of time before and after your surgery. Patients should always consult with their doctor to determine if they should adjust their medication intake.

Weight Loss Patients

Those taking medication for weight loss should be aware that it is recommended to discontinue use before undergoing surgery. This may involve skipping doses for up to a week, depending on the frequency of medication intake. Always consult your doctor before adjusting or ceasing medications to avoid health complications.

The topic will continue to evolve. Be sure to discuss all of your medications with your doctor prior to undergoing surgery to ensure your safety and promote the best outcomes.