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Chewing Gum Before Surgery Safe: Experts

Update Date: Oct 13, 2014 11:47 AM EDT

It's okay to chew gum while fasting before surgery, according to a new study. 

Patients are often advised not to eat or drink before surgery to prevent complications while they're under anesthesia. However, it wasn't clear if the same was true for chewing gum. 

The study considered around 67 patients who underwent gastrointestinal endoscopic procedures. It was found that patients who chewed gum had significantly increased volume of fluids in the stomach compared to those who did not chew gum. But, the study added that it was still safe to administer sedatives or anesthesia to the patients who chewed gum. 

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

"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," study author Dr. Basavana Goudra, an assistant professor of clinical anesthesiology and critical care at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, said in a society 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," Goudra said.

The press release added that the ban on eating and drinking before anesthesia reduces the risk of pulmonary aspiration-a serious complication in which stomach contents are pulled into the respiratory tract during breathing.

"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 said in the press release. 

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

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