Do Not Eat Before a Surgery!


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Throughout my childhood, I often had to undergo surgery because of my less than perfect ears. Every time I underwent surgery, I received the typical warning, "Do not eat or drink after midnight of the night prior to your surgery." Though this was never a problem when I was younger, as I grew up this rule became very annoying because I often spent that night before the surgery awake; hungry and thirsty. It never even made sense to me as it was my ears being operated on, not my stomach. It wasn't until recently that I thought to question the reasoning behind this practice.

surgery.jpg

It turns out that surgeons have a good reason for giving you this warning and hospitals even have a good reason to refuse people surgery when they fail to follow it. The website of the Alvarardo Surgical Center states that it is crucial that the stomach be empty during surgery because liquids or food matter in the stomach can lead to respiratory problems.  Livestrong.com provides more illuminating reasoning. When the body is put under general anesthesia, all muscles are relaxed and the person undergoing surgery has no control of their own airway. If you would vomit while under anesthesia, your body would have no way to prevent the contents from going up into your lungs.

Inhaling or aspirating stomach contents into your lungs can lead to aspiration pneumonia or even acute respiratory distress syndrome. According to Medline, symptoms of aspiration pneumonia include bluish-skin, chest pain, cough, fatigue, fever, shortness of breath, and wheezing. Without immediate treatment, it could lead to death. Often caused by aspiration pneumonia, acute respiratory disease syndrome consists of severe breathing problems, low blood pressure, confusion, and extreme fatigue. Many cases of ARDS also end in death. Failing to follow a simple instruction can lead to an extensive hospital stay or even death.

Although the risk of aspirating the contents of your stomach is relatively low, it is still a better choice to follow the surgeon's suggestion. Why even allow the chance of such serious complications when you don't have to? My worry is that not enough people are not aware of this rule. I know when I underwent my surgeries, the warning was only in the pre-surgery information and then on the day of the surgery the anesthesiologist asked if I had followed it or not. I don't know about you guys, but if my mother had not told me about it, I would have been completely oblivious. Shouldn't something so critical be emphasized a little more? Of course we should be reading our pre-surgery information, but many of us simpletons do not. 

Sources:  

http://alvaradosurgery.com/faqs.html

http://www.livestrong.com/article/501795-why-cant-i-eat-after-midnight-on-the-day-of-surgery/

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000121.htm

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ards/DS00944

2 Comments

I never knew about this medical practice until now. it makes sense cause the human body is a delicate thing. are there any specific types of food surgeons know can't help you have respiratory problems? I mean i don't think anyone would eat a bunch of junk food the night before a major surgery

I had never really heard about this until now, and Im actually getting surgery in a few months. But what surprised me about this is that what did they go through to find this out? I realize how serious surgery is and that the smallest things can go wrong like getting an infection but I wonder how they found out that food before surgery was not a good idea. Another idea that this article made me think of was how far medical practice has come in recent years. My brother and I are both type one diabetics and when he was little about 14 or 15 years ago and he had to get surgery done but diabetes management was a big problem incase there were complications during surgery. But in that same time medicine has advanced to the point where in my surgery, my diabetes is a very mild concern for the doctors.

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