For any surgery we perform during which patients will be put to sleep, i.e. undergo general anesthesia, patients will be asked to stop eating and drinking at midnight the night before their surgery date. This blog will answer all our most commonly asked questions about this aspect of your surgery. Note that this information is specific to patients of FORM Face + Body, and you may receive different instructions if you are undergoing other types of surgery.
Why is it important to fast before plastic surgery?
Having food or beverages in your digestive system during surgery can be dangerous. It can result in vomiting or aspiration; meaning the contents of your stomach are expelled upwards through the esophagus and travel back down through your windpipe. If you’ve ever had something ‘go down the wrong way’ while you’re eating, you’ll know what this feels like. When you’re conscious, you can react to this by coughing and clearing your airway. However, under general anesthesia your muscles are paralyzed and your reflexes will not react, meaning food could enter your lungs and damage or infect them.
You will also be intubated for your surgery, meaning an endotracheal tube will be placed down your throat after you are asleep to assist with breathing during the surgery. Intubation can make aspiration more likely. We can minimize these risks by making sure your stomach is empty prior to surgery. The guideline of ceasing to eat or drink at midnight the night before your surgery is based on the time it takes for your stomach to digest and clear its contents.
What happens if I eat or drink too close to my surgery time by mistake?
In this case, we may have to postpone your surgery. It is important to tell your surgical team what you consumed and when—your health and safety is the most important thing.
What should I eat for my last meal before surgery?
Generally, you can eat a normal meal for dinner the night before your surgery. It’s best to avoid heavy foods, e.g. things that are very fatty or fried, as these are harder for your body to digest.
We don’t recommend attempting to eat significantly more than usual the night before your surgery, as this may result in your stomach taking longer to empty than anticipated and you don’t want to defeat the purpose of the fast.
What if I am diabetic?
If you are diabetic, you should disclose this to your surgeon during your initial consultation. Your surgeon will have a conversation with you regarding the safe management of your condition and you may receive different instructions.
What about coffee, tea, flavoured water, etc.?
You should stop consuming everything other than plain water at midnight the night before your surgery. You can continue drinking plain water up until two hours before your surgery.
Will you remind me?
Your specific instructions for eating and drinking will be included in the pre-op instructions you are provided with. Our team will also call you the day before surgery and remind you not to eat or drink past midnight.
What about after surgery?
After waking up from a general anesthetic, you may experience some nausea. Thus, we recommend sticking to clear fluids until your stomach feels settled—’clear’ meaning liquids that are free of particulates, not necessarily colourless. Apple juice, sports drinks like Gatorade, tea without milk, and flat pop are all okay choices. From there you can move onto broth and crackers. By the day after surgery, most patients are back to their regular diet. If you continue to feel nauseous for a few days, you can take Gravol tablets to help.
What if I’m not undergoing general anesthesia?
For minor procedures that you will remain awake for and receive only a local anesthetic injection, you can eat and drink as usual prior to your surgery.