Weight loss drugs may cause general anesthesia complications

November 19, 2023 | Crandall & Pera Law
Weight loss drugs may cause general anesthesia complications

Ohio residents taking diabetes drugs for weight loss may face unexpected complications when undergoing surgery. Anesthesiologists have seen growing numbers of patients over the last several years taking medications like Wegovy and Ozempic inhaling food and liquid into their lungs because their stomachs were still full even after abstaining from food or drink for six to eight hours.

Weight loss drugs slow digestion

Doctors wrote nearly six million prescriptions diabetes drugs used as weight loss aids between January and May 2023. These drugs induce weight loss by mimicking the action of gut hormones, making those who take them feel full much faster. However, for some patients, the digestion slows so much that their stomachs remain full when they report for surgeries that require an empty stomach. This situation puts them at increased risk for pulmonary aspiration, a potentially deadly condition that is one of the most common anesthesia errors. Pulmonary aspiration can cause severe lung damage, infections and even death.

In June 2023, the American Society of Anesthesiologists advised patients to skip daily weight loss medications on the day of surgery and weekly injections for at least one week before undergoing total anesthesia. However, some medical experts believe that there should be a longer waiting period when on weight loss medications.

Serious complications can result

Patients taking these medications must be aware of general anesthesia risks. Not informing patients is a form of medical negligence and can result in lengthy hospitalizations and extended breathing problems if pulmonary aspiration occurs.

Abstaining from food for longer periods before surgery doesn’t appear to be the answer. Make sure that the surgeon who will be performing your procedure is aware of your situation.