Preoperative fasting: exploring guidelines and evidence to ensure consistent, high-quality care
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Preoperative fasting: exploring guidelines and evidence to ensure consistent, high-quality care

Cathy Liddle Senior lecturer adult nursing, Birmingham City University, Birmingham, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To understand the need for periods of fasting before surgery

  • To familiarise yourself with the implementation of shorter preoperative fasting times

  • To learn about the importance of oral care and optimal communication for fasting patients

Many nurses will still be familiar with the instruction ‘nil by mouth from midnight’ traditionally given to patients preparing to undergo surgery. National and international guidelines now promote much shorter preoperative fasting times, encapsulated in the ‘2-4-6 rule’ – two hours for clear fluids, four hours for breast milk and six hours for solids. The latest evidence appears to show that these fasting times are in need of revision. Furthermore, there are inconsistencies in how guidelines are implemented. This article explores the guidelines and literature on preoperative fasting in adults and children to determine what the evidence is and what changes could be made to ensure consistent, high-quality patient care.

Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2022.e12033

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software

Correspondence

Cathy.Liddle@bcu.ac.uk

Conflict of interest

None declared

Liddle C (2022) Preoperative fasting: exploring guidelines and evidence to ensure consistent, high-quality care. Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2022.e12033

Published online: 15 November 2022

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