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NPO Guidelines: “Wait, I have to stop eating at WHAT TIME?”


Patients and parents of children are often understandably fearful about potential complications of anesthesia. Fortunately, an overwhelmingly high percentage of anesthesia-related issues can be avoided simply by following our preoperative instructions including the American Society of Anesthesiology’s (ASA) NPO guidelines.


What’s the potential complication associated with eating or drinking before anesthesia?


Think of it like this - when you’re awake and fully functioning the things that are in your stomach stay there. However, when you’re under anesthesia, they have the potential to come back up into your mouth and even worse - into your lungs which we call pulmonary aspiration and which carries serious life-threatening consequences. We know that sounds grim, but fortunately, virtually all of this can be avoided by strictly following our straightforward NPO guidelines.


What does NPO mean?


NPO stems from the Latin term “nil per os”, but in English, it’s translated to “nothing per mouth”, and in the anesthesia world NPO means different things depending upon what exactly it is you will be eating or drinking. These are the guidelines that the ASA as well as Dr. Boorin and Dr. Gluckman instruct their patients to follow prior to their anesthetic:


Nothing within 2 hours of the procedure


Up to 2 Hours for clear fluids


Up to 4 Hours for Natural Human Breast Milk


Up to 6 Hours for Infant Formula


Up to 8 Hours for fried foods, meat, or anything with

high-fat content.

In summary

We understand that fasting is not fun, and we certainly empathize with you and/or your children during your fasting period. However, we hope you understand how important these guidelines are and how serious the consequences can be if they are violated. Fortunately, fluids and most foods can safely be added back to your diet relatively quickly following the conclusion of your procedure and things will be back to normal very, very soon!

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