People Taking Ozempic During Spinal Surgery May Face Repeat Operations

New research suggests that people with diabetes taking semaglutide-based weight loss medications like Ozempic are more likely to need repeat surgical procedures after having spinal fusion surgery than those not taking the drug.

Weight loss/diabetes medications like Ozempic or Wegovy (semaglutide) have been shown to help people manage diabetes and lose weight. However, despite their effectiveness, these glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists can produce a multitude of side effects, including hair loss, suicidal thoughts, and blocked intestines.

Moreover, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) recommends that people taking GLP-1s should stop the drug before surgery to reduce the risk of aspiration of food into the lungs during general anesthesia.

Now, a new study has revealed more surgical issues related to Ozempic and other semaglutide-based weight loss drugs.

According to a recent Medscape report, the study found that people taking these weight loss medications during spinal fusion surgery were 12 times more likely to have another surgical procedure at one year post-op than individuals who did not use the drug.

The findings were presented on May 3 at the 2024 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS).

The researchers analyzed data from 447 people with type 2 diabetes taking semaglutide and 1,334 individuals not using the drug who underwent transforaminal lumbar interbody fusions (TLIFs). During TLIF surgery, doctors remove damaged discs in the spine and fuse the vertebrae.

In addition to the higher risk of repeat surgical procedures, the investigators found that slightly over 13% of people taking semaglutide experienced medical complications — primarily urinary tract infection (UTI) and kidney injury. In contrast, only 7.7% of individuals in the non-semaglutide group had these complications.

Still, people taking semaglutide had a lower total number of surgical complications than those not using the medication.

The team also found that people taking semaglutide-based drugs like Ozempic had fewer complications related to wound healing, hematoma, and infections at the surgical site when compared to those not using the medications.

In addition to this study, which will be published after peer review, the scientists conducted a follow-up study to determine if people with morbid obesity but without diabetes taking semaglutide experience the same results after back surgery. They found similar trends in repeat operations among those using the weight loss drug.

Why would Ozempic use result in repeated surgeries?

The researchers think that sarcopenia or muscle loss that can occur along with fat loss while taking semaglutide may explain the higher odds of repeat operations. They say that evidence has shown that individuals with weaker bones or sarcopenia tend to experience poorer spinal surgery outcomes.

To investigate this further, they plan to harness artificial intelligence (AI) to assess body composition changes associated with GLP-1 use in the study participants and whether muscle loss occurs at a specific dose level.

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