Since 1999, international guidelines recommend fasting from solid foods up to 6 hours and clear liquids up to 2 hours before surgery. Early recovery after surgery programs recommend restoration of oral intake as soon as possible. This study determines adherence to these guidelines up to 20 years after its introduction.
A 2-center observational study with a 10-year interval was performed in the Netherlands. In period 1 (2009), preoperative fasting time was observed as primary outcome. In period 2 (2019), preoperative fasting and postoperative restoration of oral intake were observed. Fasting times were collected using an interview-assisted questionnaire.
During both periods, 311 patients were included from vascular, trauma, orthopedic, urological, oncological, gastrointestinal, and ear-nose-throat and maxillary surgical units. Duration of preoperative fasting was prolonged in 290 (90.3%) patients for solid foods and in 208 (67.8%) patients for clear liquids. Median duration of preoperative fasting from solid foods and clear liquids was respectively 2.5 and 3 times the recommended 6 and 2 hours, with no improvements from one period to another. Postoperative food intake was resumed within 4 hours in 30.7% of the patients. Median duration of perioperative fasting was 23:46 hours (interquartile range 20:00-30:30 hours) for solid foods and 11:00 hours (interquartile range 7:53-16:00 hours) for clear liquids.
Old habits die hard. Despite 20 years of fasting guidelines, surgical patients are still exposed erroneously to prolonged fasting in 2 hospitals. Patients should be encouraged to eat and drink until 6 and 2 hours, respectively, before surgery and to restart eating after surgery.

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