Immunosuppressant, Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drug – DMARD
Issues for Surgery
Risk of perioperative flare in disease activity if omitted (see Further Information).
Risk of post-operative infection if continued (see Further Information).
Advice in the Perioperative period
Individualised decisions should be made for procedures considered to have a high risk of infection1 and should be balanced against the risk of disease flare (see Further Information). The Surgical Team and the patient’s Rheumatologist should be involved in the planning.
Steroid exposure should be minimised prior to surgical procedures, and increases in steroid dose to prevent adrenal insufficiency are not routinely required1.
NB: The half-life of leflunomide is approximately 2 weeks (anything from 1 – 4 weeks)1, 2, 3; a prolonged period (five half-lives) off the drug would be required (or a washout procedure undertaken) to eliminate exposure1, 2, 3. For specific information on the washout procedure, consult current product literature.
The patient should be closely monitored for signs of infection following emergency surgery.
Where continued pre-operatively – due to it’s long half-life (approx. 2 weeks), withholding doses of leflunomide in the immediate post-operative period would have little effect on reducing the risk of infection. A washout procedure may be necessary in the event of a severe, uncontrolled infection. A prolonged period (five half-lives) off the drug would be required to eliminate exposure1, 2, 3. For specific information on the washout procedure, see current product information.
If discontinued, restart once wound healing is satisfactory1.
Where leflunomide is continued, close monitoring of renal function is important so that inadvertent drug accumulation does not occur1.
Interaction(s) with Common Anaesthetic Agents
Leflunomide is predicted to decrease the exposure to ropivacaine – be alert for reduced response to ropivacaine3.
Interaction(s) with other Common Medicines used in the Perioperative Period
Leflunomide is predicted to increase the exposure to benzylpenicillin and ciprofloxacin – manufacturer advises caution4, 5. Monitor for benzylpenicillin / ciprofloxacin adverse effects and adjust the dose as necesary5.
Hepatotoxicity (see also under Paracetamol below)
Whilst single surgical prophylactic doses should not pose a problem, continued post-operative treatment may require close monitoring of LFTs and / or haematological abnormalities. Consult current product literature.
Both sulfasalazine and paracetamol increase the risk of hepatotoxicity2. Whilst single perioperative doses of paracetamol should not pose a problem, continued post-operative treatment may require close monitoring of LFTs.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Flare
RA flares develop in 10-20% of patients undergoing surgery and have a potential to impact adversely on post-operative recovery. In addition, active RA increases infection risk, further complicating decisions regarding DMARD interruption1.
Some data suggest that not all DMARDs carry equivalent infection risk profiles. Information regarding perioperative use of leflunomide in relation to post-operative complications is conflicting1.