A thorough review of the emergency medicine sedation literature showed there is only one reported case of pulmonary aspiration during emergency procedural sedation, among 4657 adult cases and 17 672 paediatric cases reviewed. The authors of the review remind us that the often (inappropriately in the ED) quoted American Society of Anesthesiology guidelines for fasting prior to general anaesthesia are based on questionable evidence, and there is high-level evidence that demonstrates no link between pulmonary aspiration and non-fasted patients. There is no reason to recommend routine fasting prior to procedural sedation in the majority of patients in the Emergency Department.
An accompanying editorial points out that like other systematic reviews, the methodological flaws of the studies examined are likely to have limited the conclusions of this review.
The review authors and the editorialist agree that despite the lack of evidence linking fasting status to aspiration, selected patients believed to be significantly more prone to aspiration may benefit from risk:benefit assessment prior to sedation.
Something I learned from reading the review: ‘ it is now recognised that asymptomatic aspiration of gastric contents occurs physiologically during normal sleep‘. How about that.
Pre-procedural fasting in emergency sedation
Emerg Med J. 2010 Apr;27(4):254-61