Q:

When should you start a clear liquid diet prior to major surgery?

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Quick Answer

Prior to major surgery, follow the prescribing physician’s instructions regarding when to begin a clear liquid diet. Generally, physicians direct patients to discontinue solid food intake after midnight the night before the surgical procedure, but the length of time is determined by the procedure and its risk. A liquid diet lessens the likelihood of common surgical complications, such as pulmonary aspiration and vomiting, states Healthcommunities.com.

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A clear liquid diet consists of items like black coffee, clear tea, water, carbonated beverages and fruit juice without the pulp. Patients may request an altered fasting instruction if the surgical procedure is scheduled for the afternoon, which can create a fasting period of more than 12 hours, reports Healthcommunities.com. The after-midnight instruction can be relaxed in some cases, but it is necessary when there are problems with stomach paralysis, which is common in diabetics, or the patient has acid reflux.

Longer fasting periods do not always lessen the side effects of surgery, but they can increase the likelihood of the patient experiencing other adverse side effects, such as dehydration, nausea and dizziness. Therefore, consuming a clear liquid diet up to two hours prior to a surgical procedure is safe for patients across all age groups, unless other medical issues exist, explains Healthcommunities.com.

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