Postoperative nausea and vomiting after unrestricted clear fluids before day surgery: A retrospective analysis

Eur J Anaesthesiol. 2018 May;35(5):337-342. doi: 10.1097/EJA.0000000000000760.


Background: Guidance on pre-operative fluids fasting policy continues to evolve. Current European guidelines encourage the intake of oral fluids up to 2 h before the induction of general anaesthesia. From October 2014, Torbay Hospital Day Surgery Unit commenced an unrestricted fluid policy, encouraging patients to drink clear fluids up until the time of transfer to theatre.

Objective: The aim of this study was to assess the incidence of postoperative nausea and vomiting before and after the change to the unrestricted pre-operative clear oral fluids.

Design: Retrospective, before and after study.

Setting: Single district general hospital between November 2013 and February 2016.

Patients: A total of 11 500 patients on the day case pathway who were receiving either sedation, general anaesthesia, regional anaesthesia or their combination. The data from these patients were collected routinely. This number of patients represents approximately 78% of all patients before the change in fluids policy and 74% after the change. Exclusions were patients undergoing a termination of pregnancy, or patients undergoing community dental procedures, from whom patient experience data are not collected.

Intervention: Introduction of a change to the day surgery pathway policy permitting unrestricted clear oral fluids preoperatively until transfer to theatre (from October 2014).

Main outcome measures: Incidence of postoperative nausea and vomiting.

Results: The rates of nausea within 24 h postoperatively were 270/5192 (5.2%) when patients could not drink within 2 h of surgery, and 179/4724 (3.8%) when patients could drink up until surgery, a relative rate (95% confidence interval) of 0.73 (0.61 to 0.88), P = 0.00074. The corresponding rates of vomiting were 146/5186 (2.8%) and 104/4716 (2.2%), a relative rate (95% confidence interval) of 0.78 (0.61 to 1.00), P = 0.053.

Conclusion: Our data suggest that the liberal consumption of clear fluids before the induction of scheduled day case anaesthesia reduced the rates of postoperative nausea and vomiting.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Anesthesia, Conduction / methods
  • Anesthesia, General / methods
  • Drinking*
  • Fasting
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting / epidemiology*
  • Preoperative Care / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult