Monday, 23 June 2014

"Why do I have to starve before surgery?"

Safety, as with most things in surgery, is the reason patients are required to eat nothing for several hours prior to surgery. There is some debate over the ideal duration of preop fasting - some patients require longer fasting periods (e.g. patients with diabetes) and some shorter (e.g. small children). However,  rest assured your providers have a very good reason for making you hungry.

On induction of anesthesia (i.e. when you are 'put to sleep'), the reflexes protecting your airway (i.e. your lungs) stop working. Consequently, it would be possible for the contents of your stomach to travel into your lungs (- his is called 'aspiration'. Aspiration can require a prolonged stay in the intensive care unit, and is sometimes fatal.

Clear liquids (i.e. water, black coffee) are safer than other substances because they travel through the stomach quickly and produce less damage if they do end up in the lungs.

You may be told to take your daily medication on the morning of surgery with a sip of water. This is to ensure that your normal medication regimen is maintained, with minimal risk of aspiration during your surgery.

We all understand that going without food and water for 12 hours or more is unpleasant. It is, however, far preferable than risking an aspiration event.

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