Ozempic and Weight Loss Medications: The Hidden Risks

Weight loss has always been a prime concern for many, leading to the growing popularity of weight loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy. But, as recent reports reveal, the success of these drugs comes with its set of concerns, especially when surgeries are on the horizon.

The Connection Between Weight Loss Drugs and Anesthesia

Digestion Delay: Patients on medications like Ozempic or Wegovy are facing life-threatening complications when they require procedures that mandate an empty stomach. These drugs significantly slow digestion, which can result in patients inhaling food or liquid into their lungs while sedated, a condition known as pulmonary aspiration.

The Figures: An alarming revelation from Komodo Health points out that nearly 6 million prescriptions were written for this class of drugs within just five months in the U.S., for non-diabetic patients.

How Wegovy and Ozempic Might Increase Surgery Risk

Medical Recommendations: Recent guidelines from the American Society of Anesthesiologists recommended stopping daily medications on the day of the surgery and pausing weekly injections a week before sedation-related procedures.

Anecdotal Evidence: Numerous reports have documented cases where patients faced complications, including aspiration. Notably, even after fasting for extended periods, like 20 hours, patients on these drugs still faced issues as food remained in their stomachs.

Cases in Point: Dr. Hobai recalled a patient who, despite fasting for 18 hours, had to be admitted to intensive care due to respiratory failure. Another instance in North Carolina saw a patient’s procedure halted because of the risk of aspiration.

Understanding the Complications

Frequency of Aspiration: Typically, aspiration occurs in 1 out of every 2,000 to 3,000 operations that require sedation. But with drugs like semaglutide, the risks can rise significantly.

Studies on Semaglutide: Dr. Hobai’s forthcoming study on almost 200 patients taking semaglutide seems to align with a Brazilian study. In the latter, around a quarter of patients had residual food in their stomachs during procedures, even after stopping the medication for 10 days.

Pharmaceutical Standpoint

Manufacturer’s Perspective: Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of Ozempic and Wegovy, has stated that their clinical trials and safety data don’t show any increased risk of aspiration due to these drugs. However, they acknowledge that these medications can cause delayed stomach emptying.

The Dilemma of Stopping Medication: While stopping the drugs before surgery is a recommended precaution, other problems exist. Diabetic patients will require alternative methods to manage their blood sugar levels; others might regain their lost weight.

Navigating the Risk

Patients on these drugs need to communicate with their healthcare providers before undergoing any sedation procedure. Discussions should encompass the potential risks and benefits of continuing the medication. As Dr. Hobai stresses, extra precautions are crucial when using weight-loss drugs and undergoing operations.

The journey to weight loss is filled with challenges and choices. And while medications like Ozempic and Wegovy have offered promising results to many, it’s vital to stay informed about potential complications, especially when surgical procedures are in play. Always consult with your healthcare provider to ensure that you’re making the safest decisions for your health.


What is Ozempic? Ozempic is an injectable prescription medicine that is used to improve blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes. It also reduces the risk of major cardiovascular events such as heart attack, stroke, or death in people with type 2 diabetes who have known heart diseases. Apart from its usage for diabetes, Ozempic is also popular as a weight-loss drug.

Manufacturer: Ozempic is produced by Novo Nordisk, a global healthcare company with over 95 years of innovation and leadership in diabetes care.

Usage: The drug is typically administered once a week through subcutaneous injections. It is not recommended for people with type 1 diabetes or diabetic ketoacidosis.


What is Wegovy? Wegovy, or semaglutide, is a drug originally designed to treat type 2 diabetes but has recently been approved for weight loss. It operates by mimicking a hormone in the gut, which leads to feelings of fullness and thereby helps in reducing food intake.

Manufacturer: Wegovy is also a product of Novo Nordisk, and its primary ingredient, semaglutide, is the core element in both weight management and diabetes treatment formulas.

Usage: Similar to Ozempic, Wegovy is administered through injections. However, its weight loss capabilities have made it popular for those outside the diabetic community.

Jennifer Wilkens

Jennifer has a degree in communications from Utah Valley University and enjoys writing business and financial news articles. She loves snowboarding and spending time with her two kids.

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