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The why behind fasting


This is a medical order where the hospital staff will contact you the working day before your surgery. They will tell you exact instructions about when to eat and drink.

Fasting means going without all food and liquid. Sometimes in hospital we call this "Nil by Mouth". It is a medical instruction to stop food and fluids. Experts have researched safe fasting times for patients.


Fasting or being "Nil by Mouth" also applies to patients who have:

  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Special nutrition feeding tubes into the nose or stomach. This is called "Nil by Tube".


Fasting is needed before general anaesthesia or sedation medicine. This will minimise the risk of vomiting and breathing in food or fluid into the lungs. You are permitted to drink clear fluids (water, clear apple juice or tea/coffee without milk). This should be no more than one cup of 250 ml up until one hour before your admission time.


In general before your surgery:

  • You can have solid food until six hours before surgery - this should be a light meal
  • Do not chew gum or lollies - these count as food
  • Patients who need tube feeding can continue until six hours before surgery


Preoperative oral fluids can include:

  • Water
  • Clear apple juice, other pulp free fruit juice or cordial
  • Clear lemonade with no pulp
  • Black tea or coffee with no milk
  • Commercial rehydration fluids such as "Hydralyte"
  • Fat free, protein-free nutritional supplements such as "preOp" brand drink
  • Sports drinks such as "Gatorade" - light colours only
  • Ice blocks made from any of the above clear fluids
  • Fat free clear soup like chicken broth



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