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Can I eat or drink before an operation?

Posted by Be Well

Can I eat or drink before an operation?
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Every operation is different - whether you are allowed to eat or drink beforehand, and what you can have, depends on the operation being carried out. The doctors and nurses treating you will explain what you need to do, and if you have any questions, it's important to ask them.

When you have an operation, you are likely to be given a local or a general anesthetic first. A local anesthetic just numbs the area being treated so you don't feel any pain, and a general anesthetic makes you unconscious so you can't feel anything and aren't aware of what's going on during the procedure.

You normally won't be allowed to eat or drink anything before having a general anesthetic. This is because when you are under anesthetic your body's reflexes are temporarily stopped. If your stomach has food and drink in it, there's a risk of vomiting or regurgitation (bringing up food into the throat). This could spill into your lungs and affect your breathing, as well as causing damage to your lungs.

If you have a medical condition such as diabetes, that means you need to eat and drink regularly, you should tell the doctor or nurse beforehand. You should also let them know if you are taking any medication.

The amount of time you have to fast (go without food or drink) before your operation depends on the procedure. It is usually six hours for food and two hours for fluids. If you're drinking tea or coffee then low fat rather than whole milk is recommended. If you are having a local anesthetic, you should be allowed to eat and drink as normal beforehand.

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NOTICE: The information provided on this site is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on Wellsphere. If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.
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