What Everyone on Ozempic Needs to Know Before Undergoing Anesthesia

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Weight-loss patients have seen tremendous amount of success in the last year with GLP-1 agonists like semaglutide (Ozempic and Wegovy) and tirzepitide (Mounjaro). With patients losing up to 20 percent of their body weight, cosmetic treatments like body contouring and tummy tucks are no doubt about to see an uptick. Before you have surgery, there’s one thing doctors want you to know.

If you’re on Ozempic or a drug like it, it’s important to understand how the drugs work on digestion before undergoing general anesthesia. “The weight-loss injections work by mimicking a hormone that makes you feel full and slowing how the body digests food,” explains Houston, TX plastic surgeon Kristy L. Hamilton, MD.  

“Patients taking these medications need to be cautious about undergoing anesthesia before surgery because the drug can cause delayed gastric emptying, which increases the risk of aspiration during surgery,” she adds.

Delayed Digestion

Delayed gastric emptying, one of the reasons users feel fuller for longer, means that food and liquid move slowly through the stomach and into the intestines. This can lead to the accumulation of gastric contents which can increase the risk of regurgitation and aspiration during surgery. Aspiration can occur when contents in the stomach, including acid and food, are inhaled into the lungs. This could lead to respiratory complications and pneumonia.

Plan to Take a Break

“It’s important that patients on these medications tell their surgeons ahead of time,” says Houston, TX plastic surgeon Erica Bartlett, MD. Dr. Bartlett recommends that patients stop their injections weeks before their scheduled procedure. “The people that come in that are on Ozempic cannot be on it for surgery. They have to stop at least two weeks before and you don’t want anybody to be malnourished.” 

“I work with a board certified anesthesiologist and it’s something we’ve been working on. In their industry they’ve been talking about it, too. They weren’t prepared for the aspiration events that have happened,” adds Dr. Hamilton. “I advise patients to be off of it for four weeks from a nutritional perspective to improve healing after surgery.”

If you’re on a weight-loss injection drug it’s essential to inform your provider before undergoing any surgical procedure. “It’s vital information as we need to take all necessary precautions to ensure safety,” says Dr. Bartlett.

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