Purpose: Phentermine is the most prescribed antiobesity drug in America, with 2.43 million prescriptions written in 2011. Case reports suggest there are anesthetic risks, such as refractory hypotension, involved with its perioperative use. Despite these risks and the frequency of phentermine use among plastic surgery patients, there are no published guidelines for the perioperative management of phentermine use in the plastic surgery literature. To address this patient safety issue, we performed a systematic review and provide management recommendations.
Methods: A systematic review of the pharmacology of phentermine and the anesthetic risks involved with its perioperative use was undertaken using the search engines PubMed/MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Scopus.
Results: A total of 251 citations were reviewed, yielding 4 articles that discussed perioperative phentermine use and complications with anesthesia. One was a review article, 2 were case reports, and 1 was a letter. Complications included hypotension, hypertension, hypoglycemia, hyperthermia, bradycardia, cardiac depression, and acute pulmonary edema.
Conclusions: The relationship between phentermine and anesthesia, if any, is unclear. Hypotension on induction of general anesthesia is the most reported complication of perioperative phentermine use. Specifically, phentermine-induced hypotension may be unresponsive to vasopressors that rely on catecholamine release, such as ephedrine. Therefore, the decision to perform surgery, especially elective surgery, in a patient taking phentermine should be made with caution. Because of the half-life of phentermine, we recommend discontinuing phentermine for at least 4 days prior to surgery. This differs from the classic 2-week discontinuation period recommended for "fen-phen." The patient should be made aware of the increased risk of surgery, and a skilled anesthesiologist should monitor intraoperative blood pressure and body temperature for signs of autonomic derailment.