Fasting from midnight--the history behind the dogma

Best Pract Res Clin Anaesthesiol. 2006 Sep;20(3):363-78. doi: 10.1016/j.bpa.2006.02.001.


The purpose of this chapter is to review historical fasting guidelines and how the dogma of fasting from midnight arose and came to be challenged by randomized clinical trials of preoperative clear liquids versus overnight fast. Medical and anaesthesia textbooks and journals from the 19th and 20th centuries were consulted, and the results of clinical trials and the reaction to them are reviewed. The dogma appeared to result from extrapolation of pulmonary aspiration risk in 'full-stomach' emergency cases to healthy elective cases. This was reinforced when 25 mL in the stomach, present in half of all healthy fasting patients, was used as a surrogate marker for high risk of aspiration. Subsequent large-scale studies showed the risk to be minimal. Meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials demonstrated the safety of clear oral liquids until 2 hr preoperatively in healthy patients undergoing elective surgery. Reaction was cautious but led to eventual acceptance of evidence-based fasting guidelines.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia / history*
  • Anesthesia / methods
  • Fasting*
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Preoperative Care / methods
  • Time Factors