Why can't you eat or drink before surgery?

+14 votes
asked May 29, 2015 in Health & Wellness by salil (1,290 points)
In a few weeks I have a pretty major surgery scheduled, and they told me not to eat or drink anything after a certain point the day before. This surgery has nothing to do with my digestive system, so why am I not allowed to eat or drink anything before surgery?

1 Answer

+25 votes
answered May 31, 2015 by Debbie (820 points)
edited Jul 27, 2015 by Kris

You’re not allowed to eat or drink before surgery in order to prevent complications and risks that could be fatal. Actually there are two reasons why eating or drinking before surgery causes complications.

First, if your surgery has anything to do with your gastrointestinal system or digestive system, then food in your system could cause complications. This could lead to infections, and sometimes the doctor will just cancel the surgery in order to avoid any risks. So this is why you can’t eat or drink before surgery. 

Second, there is a rare but serious issue called aspiration that occurs from the use of anesthesia with sedation, and it causes anything in your stomach to be regurgitated into your lungs during the procedure. When your body is put under anesthesia, all of the body’s functions enter a sleep-like state which makes them inactive and unable to perform any voluntary action. Because you are no longer in control of your gag reflex, if you have recently eaten the contents of your stomach will wander into your airways because your normal safeguards that would stop this are still “sleeping.” Major damage can be caused to your body if this regurgitation into the lungs happens and may even prove fatal, but you can prevent this risk by following the instructions given by your doctor preparing yourself for surgery.

There are also some diet restrictions you should know before surgery. Depending on the type of anesthesia and how long you will be under often affects what kind of restrictions you should take into consideration the day before. Some fasting restrictions even include things like gum, mints, other candies, and chewing tobacco. Specific instructions will usually be given directly to you by a nurse, but to make sure you can always contact the office in which you will be having surgery.

commented Jun 9, 2015 by Pualehua (710 points)
Oh, so this is why can't you eat or drink before surgery.
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