It's OK To Chew Gum Before Surgery

First Posted: Oct 13, 2014 03:02 PM EDT

Prior to previous studies, recent research shows that it's okay to chew gum while fasting before surgery.

Though patients had been advised to not eat or drink before surgery in order to prevent complications while under anesthesia, it wasn't entirely clear if the same was true for chewing gum.

For the study, researchers examined 67 patients who underwent gastrointestinal endoscopic procedures. It was discovered that patients who chewed gum had significantly increased volume of fluids in the stomach compared to those who did not new gum. Yet the study also added that it was still safe to administer sedatives or anesthesia to patients who chewed gum.

"The effect of chewing gum on fasting has been a subject of debate, and unsuspecting patients who chew gum before surgery may face cancellation or delay of their procedure," said study author Dr. Basavana Goudra, an assistant professor of clinical anesthesiology and critical care at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, in a news release.  "We found that although chewing gum before surgery increases the production of saliva and thus the volume of stomach liquids, it does not affect the level of stomach acidity in a way that would elevate the risk of complications."

As eating and drinking before going under anesthesia helps to reduce the risk of pulmonary aspiration--a serioues condition in which anything in the stomach is pulled into the respiratory tract--health officials are still adamanat about patients not eating or drinking before surgery. And while it's alright to chew gum, it isn't strongly encouraged.

"While we wouldn't actively encourage gum chewing in patients presenting for procedures involving anesthesia, in the absence of other aspiration risk factors, patients who inadvertently chew gum should not face cancellation or delay of a surgery or procedure with anesthesia," Goudra concluded.

The study will be presented at the American Society of Anesthesiologists, in New Orleans. 

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