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Anesthesia

Post-anesthesia vomiting

03/29/1999

Question:

I am to have surgery in a couple days under general anesthesia. I have received the usual warning of nothing to eat or drink after midnight before the surgery. The last time I had surgery I had quite a bit of vomiting afterwards. Are there any foods that should be avoided in the day or two prior to anesthesia? I understand why you shouldn`t eat prior to receiving the anesthesia, but is there things you could do diet-wise to help the recovery afterwards? Foods to not have had recently in your system?

Answer:

The reason why you should not eat before a surgical procedure is that during surgery the contents of your stomach may come up your food pipe and spill into your lungs. This is called `aspiration` and is potentially fatal. While you are awake the body has reflexes that prevent aspiration. These protective reflexes are not present during general (asleep) anesthesia.

The issue of whether specific foods reduce (or increase) nausea or vomiting after surgery has been studied very little. In one study, powdered ginger root (Zingiber officinale) taken before surgery was as effective as anti-nausea medication, but in others it was ineffective. I am not aware of any other foods, herbs or natural substances that are effective (or harmful) in preventing this problem.

Avoiding dehydration before surgery may be helpful. Clear fluids, such as water, tea and apple juice pass throughout the stomach quickly and will help maintain your hydration. Solid food, particularly fatty foods, take a long time to clear (for your body to digest). Check with your anesthesiologist for guidelines on what is allowed before surgery, and how long before surgery you should stop all intake. Try to ensure a reasonable fluid intake up to that point. The guidelines for this are changing and becoming more liberal - see the American Society of Anesthesiologists web site below for details.

After your surgery you should follow the guidelines provided by your physicians. Obviously you should avoid a heavy meal immediately after surgery, and take things slowly but apart from that I cannot provide you with any specific recommendations.

Please consult with your anesthesiologist before consuming any special foods, fluids or medications before your surgery. The type of surgery, and other medical conditions you may have, will also be an important influence on how you are treated.

Related Resources:

American Society of Anesthesiologists

For more information:

Go to the Anesthesia health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Gareth S Kantor, MD Gareth S Kantor, MD
Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University