GLP-1 Drugs Show Promise for Reducing Risks in Bariatric Surgery for Extreme Obesity

by Daisy

New Study Highlights Benefits of Pre-Surgery GLP-1 Drug Use

A recent study has revealed that utilizing GLP-1 drugs such as Ozempic before bariatric surgery can significantly enhance the health outcomes for individuals suffering from extreme obesity. The findings, presented at the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) 2024 Annual Scientific Meeting, underscore the potential of these medications to mitigate surgical risks, although the study is yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The Challenge of Extreme Obesity

Defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 70 or higher, extreme obesity poses substantial challenges during and after weight-loss surgeries. In 2022, nearly 280,000 metabolic and bariatric surgeries were performed in the United States. Individuals with extreme obesity face greater risks of complications compared to those with lower BMIs.


Study Insights: The Impact of GLP-1 Drugs

The study observed 113 patients with a BMI above 70 who were preparing for bariatric surgery. Participants were divided into three groups: those following a medically supervised diet and exercise regimen, those taking a single GLP-1 medication (primarily semaglutide), and those on a combination of multiple GLP-1 drugs.


Over an average treatment period of 72.9 days, patients on multiple GLP-1 medications experienced the most significant weight loss, shedding 13.1% of their total body weight. This was followed by those on single GLP-1 therapy (8.14%) and those relying on diet and exercise (5.95%). The greatest BMI reductions were observed in patients treated for six to twelve months with combination drug therapy.


Expert Opinions on Pre-Surgery GLP-1 Use

Dr. John Morton, a bariatric surgeon at the Yale School of Medicine, emphasized the importance of consulting healthcare professionals before undergoing surgery. “It’s crucial to assess a patient’s motivation and weight-loss goals,” he said. Morton, who was not involved in the study, highlighted the diverse options available for individuals with extreme obesity and the importance of accredited centers in determining the best approach.

Risks Associated with Bariatric Surgery

Obesity, affecting around 42% of adults in the United States, is linked to numerous health complications, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. Bariatric surgery, while generally safe, carries risks, particularly for those with extreme obesity. Dr. Mir Ali, a bariatric surgeon at MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center, noted that higher BMIs increase surgical risks and complicate recovery. Pre-surgery GLP-1 drug use can help reduce these risks by facilitating weight loss.


The study suggests that GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic or Wegovy are effective in reducing the risk of surgical complications for individuals with extreme obesity. With extreme obesity defined as a BMI over 70, tailored pre- and post-surgical plans developed in consultation with healthcare professionals are essential for optimizing patient outcomes.

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