Objectives: (1) To investigate the relationship between the duration of time that children fasted before a procedure and their gastric volume and pH at the time of the procedure. (2) To compare the variables of gastric pH and volume with historical standards.
Methods: We performed 285 gastroscopies for children aged 0.1 to 18.6 years (mean, 7.5 +/- 5.3) between October 1991 and January 1995. Duration of fasting was 0.5 to 24 hours (mean, 6.7 +/- 5.3) after ingestion of clear liquids. Immediately after intravenously administered sedation, the gastric contents were removed endoscopically with suction and direct visualization to ensure complete evacuation. The volume and pH of the gastric contents were measured and analyzed in comparison with the duration of fasting. The values obtained were also compared with historical standards thought to minimize the risk of aspiration pneumonia: gastric volume 0.4 ml or less per kilogram of body weight and pH of 2.5 or greater.
Results: There was no significant correlation between duration of fasting and either gastric volume divided by body weight (mean, 0.68 +/- 1.31 ml/kg; range, 0 to 15.23 ml/kg) or pH (mean, 2.03 +/- 1.40; range, 1 to 8). There was less no significant difference in the percentage of children with gastric volume of 0.4 ml/kg or less or with pH of 2.5 or greater between the groups with the following fasting times: 30 minutes to 3 hours, more than 3 hours to 8 hours, and more than 8 hours.
Conclusions: On the basis of the data in this study and a review of the literature, we concluded that (1) fasting longer than 2 hours after ingesting clear liquids does not significantly change gastric volume or pH, (2) there is no advantage in requiring children to fast for longer than 2 hours after clear liquid ingestion before sedation or anesthesia for any procedure, and (3) fewer than half of pediatric patients actually achieve the "desirable" values of a gastric volume of 0.4 ml/kg or less and a pH value of 2.5 pH units or more, regardless of fast duration, even though these values are presented in the literature as a goal to minimize the risk of aspiration pneumonia.