Fasting Before Hysterectomy — Do I Have To?

When scheduling your hysterectomy, you are given a pile of papers. Among them are instructions about fasting before surgery. Unfortunately, it may not have been explained why this is such a critical step.

Knowing the reasons for your instructions can make them easier to follow. After all, what’s so bad about chewing gum before surgery? It’s not like you are going to swallow it. So why would your surgery be cancelled if you had a piece on the way to the hospital?

Fasting guidelines are for your safety. The goal is to prevent pulmonary aspiration, a potentially catastrophic and sometimes fatal condition where the contents of your stomach travel through your airways.

Anesthesia is used to keep your body still and pain free during surgery. In doing so, it also makes normal reactions impossible. For example, you won’t have a gag reflex or ability to swallow.

If you have eaten or drank recently, those contents will be in your stomach, along with the acids and fluids your stomach produces to process those foods. And guess what? Even when you chew gum, your body produces fluids and acids, just in a smaller volume.

Under anesthesia, the muscles that keep everything in your stomach relax, potentially allowing anything in your stomach to travel backward. If you aspirate and it enters your airway and lungs, it can be fatal. If you survive, there could be long-term complications such as breathing problems, infection, inflammation, permanent damage to your lungs and airways, and even cognitive damage.

How long you must go without eating and drinking can depend on a number of circumstances. The time frame takes into account your type of surgery, the time and duration of the scheduled surgery, type of anesthesia, your overall health, and more.

If you have any questions or concerns about your instructions, it is critical that you discuss them with your surgeon and/or anesthesiologist. DO NOT make any adjustments on your own for any reason. If you forget and chew some gum or drink a glass of water, let your pre-op team know. Don’t hide it – there can be fatal consequences.

While it can be miserable to be without food and water for several hours, your safety depends on it. Your surgical team and anesthesiologist are there to ensure a successful surgery, but they need you to do your part by following the pre-op instructions as prescribed.

Browse through the HysterSisters Pre-Op Hysterectomy Articles which provide more information about endometriosis.

This content was written by staff of by non-medical professionals based on discussions, resources and input from other patients for the purpose of patient-to-patient support. Article printed by permission: Fasting Before Hysterectomy: Do I Have To?

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