Using quality improvement methods to reduce clear fluid fasting times in children on a preoperative ward

Paediatr Anaesth. 2017 Aug;27(8):793-800. doi: 10.1111/pan.13174. Epub 2017 Jul 4.


Objectives: We applied quality improvement (QI) methodology to identify the different aspects of why children fasted for prolonged periods in our institution. Our aim was for 75% of all children to be fasted for clear fluid for less than 4 hours.

Background: Prolonged fasting in children can increase thirst and irritability and have adverse effects on haemodynamic stability on induction. By reducing this, children may be less irritable, more comfortable and more physiologically stable, improving the preoperative experience for both children and carers.

Methods: We conducted a QI project from January 2014 until August 2016 at a large tertiary pediatric teaching hospital. Baseline data and the magnitude of the problem were obtained from pilot studies. This allowed us to build a key driver diagram, a process map and conduct a failure mode and effects analysis. Using a framework of Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles our key interventions primarily focused on reducing confusion over procedure start times, giving parents accurate information, empowering staff and reducing variation by allowing children to drink on arrival (up to one hour) before surgery.

Results: Prior to this project, using the 6,4,2 fasting rule for solids, breast milk, and clear fluids, respectively, 19% of children were fasted for fluid for less than 4 hours, mean fluid fasting time was 6.3 hours (SD 4.48). At the conclusion 72% of patients received a drink within 4 hours, mean fluid fasting reduced to 3.1 hours (SD 2.33). The secondary measures of aspiration (4.14:10 000) and cancellations have not increased since starting this project.

Conclusions: By using established QI methodology we reduced the mean fluid fasting time for day admissions at our hospital to 3.1 hours and increased the proportion of children fasting for less than 4 hours from 19% to 72%.

Keywords: anaesthetic; aspiration pneumonia; child; fasting; general surgery; quality improvement.

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia / adverse effects
  • Child
  • Drinking*
  • Fasting*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents
  • Patient Care Team
  • Preoperative Care*
  • Quality Improvement
  • Respiratory Aspiration of Gastric Contents / prevention & control*
  • Treatment Outcome