Eating Before Surgery

Sometimes patients who’ve just had surgery joke as much about eating restrictions before the procedure as about the ups and downs of their recovery. There are two main reasons why patients have restrictions on eating and drinking before an operation.

With either one, it’s important that a patient follows the instructions of the surgeon or anesthesiologist as to whether to eat or drink before a procedure. According to Kidshealth, doctors tailor these instructions to a patient’s age, medical condition and the time of day when the hospital has scheduled the surgery.

In the case of restrictions related to anesthesia, instructions can also vary according to what the anesthesia staff has planned as far as the type of anesthetic. According to Horizon Anesthesia, patients might experience one of several kinds.

Local with Monitored Anesthetic Care. This is a light sedation. Local anesthetics numb the site of surgery. Sedation keeps the patient relaxed but awake. This kind of anesthetic is common for shorter or minor procedures.

Intravenous Sedation. This is a moderate type of sedation. The staff administers sedatives and pain medications through an IV to make the patient sleepy. Many individuals don’t remember anything about the procedure. Sometimes it’s also necessary to inject the surgical site with local anesthetics in addition to IV sedation.

General Anesthesia. This deep sedation causes the patient to completely lose sensation and awareness. The anesthesia staff administers it intravenously or through inhalation techniques.

Eating or drinking before surgery is actually a very big issue. It can include taking oral medication, sipping a soda and chewing gum. Individuals have reflexes that stop food from being inhaled into the lungs after swallowing or regurgitating. However, the medications used in anesthesia can interfere with this safety check by suspending these reflexes, Kidshealth reports. As a result, it’s possible that a patient who vomits or regurgitates while anesthetized could get food or liquid in his or her lungs.

Doctors specify when patients should stop eating and drinking. Depending upon the patient’s circumstances, they might caution against consuming anything after midnight. Sometimes eight hours before the procedure is sufficient. In some cases, physicians will approve taking clear liquids or certain pills – such as a blood pressure medication – a few hours before reporting for surgery.

A second reason for restricting food and drink is surgery on the digestive tract. Somtimes restrictions are more stringent than making modifications in eating and drinking only on the day before the procedure.

For certain digestive surgeries, preparation might also include a regimen of cleaning out the gut. This can involve taking liquid medications that act like super-laxatives as well as following a clear liquid diet for a few days. University of Nebraska Medical Center instructions show a typical regimen for a patient about to have bowel surgery. These instructions, however, do not apply to all patients scheduled for surgery on the digestive tract.

Doctors, hospitals and clinics also consider certain outpatient exams to be surgical procedures. Examples include colonoscopy and endoscopy. Patients scheduled for these types of exams also must follow restrictions on what they can eat and drink prior to the surgery.

Since each patient’s circumstances as well as physician preferences vary greatly, it’s essential to understand any restrictions a surgeon or anesthesiologist indicates on eating or drinking before a procedure. In the case of patients who are ill with diseases such as cancer, doctors might also specify a certain diet to attempt to boost their health prior to surgery.


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