Practice Guideline Recommendations on Perioperative Fasting: A Systematic Review

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Background: Traditionally, perioperative fasting consisted of being nil by mouth (NBM) from midnight before surgery and fasting postoperatively until recovery of bowel function. These outdated practices persist despite emerging evidence revealing that excessive fasting results in negative outcomes and delayed recovery. Various evidence-based, multimodal, enhanced recovery protocols incorporating minimized perioperative fasting have arisen to improve patient outcomes and streamline recovery, but implementation remains limited. This article aims to review current fasting guidelines, assess their quality, summarize relevant recommendations, and identify gaps in evidence. Methods: A systematic literature search of Medline and CINAHL and a manual search of relevant websites identified guidelines containing suitable grading systems and fasting recommendations. Guideline quality was assessed using the Appraisal of Guidelines Research and Evaluation (AGREE) tool. Grading systems were standardized to the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition format and recommendations summarized based on grading and guideline quality. Results: Nineteen guidelines were included. Rigor of development scores ranged from 29%–95%, with only 8 guidelines explicitly declaring the use of systematic methodology. Applicability scores were lowest, averaging 32%. Ten recommendation types were extracted and summarized. Strong and consistent evidence exists for the minimization of perioperative fasting, for a 2-hour preoperative fast after clear fluids, and for early recommencement of oral food and fluid intake postoperatively. Conclusions: This article presents several high-level recommendations ready for immediate implementation, while poorly graded and inconsistent recommendations reveal key areas for future research. Meanwhile, guideline quality requires improvement, especially regarding rigor of development and applicability, through systematic methodology, reporting transparency, and implementation strategies.

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