Nursing group issues anesthesia protocols for weight loss medication users

New anesthesia considerations for patients taking anti-obesity drugs like Ozempic has been released by the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology.

The rise in popularity of drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy can have certain pre-surgical risks that patients should be screened for, according to the group. 

"These medications have exploded in popularity, and CRNAs need to be prepared to see more patients actively take them," Micah Walden, DNP, CRNA, a member of the AANA's practice committee stated in a March 11 news release. "This means additional preparation for patients, anesthesia providers, and the surgical team to help minimize risks of complications during a procedure." 

The medications, which work by suppressing appetite, and they also slow down the process of gastric emptying. Because anesthesia procedures typically require fasting prior to them, the group notes that ensuring a patient's stomach is empty with ultrasound technology prior to surgery is also crucial. 

If a patient's stomach is full or still showing digestion in progress, surgeons must make the decision to delay the patient's surgery accordingly.  

Adjusting the doses prior to surgery is important because the medications can have a lasting effect on the body. 

To ensure the medication is out of the system, if a patient is prescribed a daily dose of a GLP-1 medication, the AANA advises adjusting this and requiring the patient not take the medicine one day prior to surgery. If a patient is receiving a weekly dose, the group advises patients stop taking the medication one week before their procedure.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists published similar guidance in 2023, as did the American Gastroenterological Association. However, guidance from the two groups differs slightly and has sparked some debate about surgical prep for patients taking GLP-1 medications.

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