Can we safely avoid fasting before abortions with low-dose procedural sedation? A retrospective cohort chart review of anesthesia-related complications in 47,748 abortions
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BACKGROUND: Some licensing authorities require fasting before abortions under intravenous sedation to avoid aspiration of gastric contents. This study was conducted to estimate the incidence of anesthesia-related complications in women undergoing abortions without preprocedure fasting. STUDY DESIGN: This is a retrospective cohort chart review of patients having abortions with both fentanyl and midazolam at two urban free-standing abortion clinics with routine policy of advising women to eat a light meal before the procedure. RESULTS: There were no reports of anesthesia-related complications in the 47,748 charts reviewed from 1998 to 2010. Applying Hanley's formula for rare events that have not occurred, the upper 95% confidence interval for the true incidence of anesthesia-related complications for women having abortion under low-dose procedural sedation without fasting was estimated to be 0.00006%. CONCLUSIONS: This large retrospective cohort chart review identified no complications related to low-dose procedural sedation in over 47,000 consecutive nonfasting patients having abortions through 18 weeks' gestation. Eliminating the requirement to fast would decrease unnecessary stress and unpleasant symptoms without increase in the anesthesia-related complications for women having abortions.
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