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ASA: Chewing Gum Before Surgery Appears Safe

Patients who inadvertently chew gum should not face cancellation of procedures

MONDAY, Oct. 13, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- It's safe to chew gum while fasting before surgery, researchers report. Their findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), held from Oct. 11 to 15 in New Orleans.

Basavana Goudra, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical anesthesiology and critical care at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, and colleagues studied 67 patients who underwent gastrointestinal endoscopic procedures. About half the patients were allowed to chew gum until just before the start of the procedure, with no limit on the amount or type of gum, or duration of chewing. The other patients did not chew gum.

The patients who chewed gum had significantly increased volume of fluids in the stomach compared to those who didn't chew gum. But it was still safe to administer sedatives or anesthesia to the patients who chewed gum, according to the researchers.

"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 in an ASA news release. "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."

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