Patients often ask why we have rules about eating and drinking before surgery. The answer? It’s for your protection.
Your body relaxes all of its muscles when you receive anesthesia or sedation, including the one that keeps food and liquids in your stomach. If something is in your stomach as the medications take effect, there is a chance it could be “burped” up into your mouth and enter your lungs. This can damage your lungs and may lead to pneumonia. The American Society of Anesthesia has developed rules for eating and drinking prior to surgery based on evidence from studies. The standard guidelines are listed below. Some types of surgery may require longer fasting periods. If you have received instructions from your surgeon which differ from the ones listed below, please follow those instead.
ADULTS AND CHILDREN OLDER THAN 3 YEARS OF AGE:
1. A full meal is allowed up to 8 hours before surgery.
2. A light meal (toast, fruit, clear liquids) is allowed up to 6 hours before surgery. No fried or fatty foods like sausage and eggs!
3. Clear liquids (apple juice, water, black coffee, tea, clear broth) are allowed up to 2 hours before surgery. No milk or lattes!
CHILDREN 6 MONTHS TO 3 YEARS OF AGE:
1. Light meal (toast, fruit, clear liquids) or milk are allowed up to 6 hours before surgery.
2. Breast milk is allowed up to 4 hours before surgery.
3. Clear liquids (apple juice, water, popsicles) are allowed up to 2 hours before surgery.
INFANTS LESS THAN 6 MONTHS OF AGE:
1. Breast milk and formula are allowed up to 4 hours before surgery.
2. Diluted apple juice or sugar water is allowed up to 2 hours before surgery.