Why Can’t I Eat Before My Surgical Procedure?


One of the hardest things for patients to hear is “Nothing to eat or drink for eight hours before your procedure.”

Isn’t is stressful enough to know that you are going in for surgery, into a strange place with nurses you don’t know, you will be having anesthesia and now you can’t have your morning coffee??

There are good and simple reasons why you are asked not to eat or drink prior to having a surgical procedure. The most important reason is related to your anesthesia care. When you are sedated by the anesthesiologist for a procedure you are relaxed to a point that you don’t have your protective reflexes working as they do when you are awake. So, if you had food or fluid in your stomach you are at a higher risk for vomiting during your procedure. When you are sedated, your protective gag reflex doesn’t work as it would when you are awake. This could allow you to inhale your vomit into your lungs causing pneumonia and/or difficulty in breathing. This is considered a serious complication and can compromise your recovery.

You should not have a heavy meal the night before surgery. Consider a light meal that can be easily digested.

Also, if you take medication for a medical condition like hypertension, check with your physician and see if you should take it the morning of your procedure with a small sip of water. Don’t make the decision yourself; many medications can wait to be taken until after your procedure. Check with your physician to be sure. Make sure you inform the admitting nurse of the last time you had anything to eat or drink and if you took any medications, as directed by your physician, prior to your procedure.

Lastly, if you have an inhaler that you use for asthma or are diabetic and do daily blood sugar testing, be sure to bring your inhaler or glucose testing equipment with you the day of your surgery as you may be requested to use them during your stay.

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