– Anesthesiologist Michael W. Manning, MD, has a few unusual rules about preparing patients for surgery: Give them a carb-heavy beverage. Definitely provide caffeine to coffee addicts who haven’t had a cup for quite a while. And tell them – again and again – what to expect in terms of pain.

A cup of black coffee Lynda Banzi/IMNG Medical Media

All of these strategies can boost recovery, Dr. Manning, assistant professor of anesthesiology at Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C., said in a pair of presentations at the Annual Minimally Invasive Surgery Symposium by Global Academy for Medical Education.

Dr. Manning’s tips

Don’t starve patients before procedures: “We should prep for a surgery like a marathon,” Dr. Manning recommended. That means allowing patients to eat and drink instead of starving them via fasting out of fear that they’ll aspirate under anesthesia, he said.

He pointed to 2017 guidelines issued by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, indicating that patients may drink clear liquids for up to 2 hours before procedures that require general or regional anesthesia or procedural sedation and anesthesia. And patients may consume a light meal, such as toast and a clear liquid, or nonhuman milk, until 6 hours before a procedure. However, they should fast 8 hours after eating fried or fatty foods or meat (Anesthesiology 2017:376-93).

Extensive research supports carb-loading via liquid prior to surgery, said Dr. Manning, who cited a 2014 Cochrane Library review that examined 27 trials on preoperative consumption of carbs prior to various types of surgery. The review found no increase in complications in patients who consumed carbs, compared with placebo or fasting, and there was a slight decrease in length of stay (Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Aug 14;[8]).

In terms of benefits, research suggests that carb-loading improves patient comfort and gastric emptying, Dr. Manning said, and patients welcome it.

Educate patients about pain expectations

“We surgeons and anesthesiologists need to partner together and talk to patients and define what the pain expectations are,” Dr. Manning said.

At Duke, physicians worked together to set up a script that patients will hear four different times by medical personnel such as the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, and nursing staff, he said.

The script aims to educate patients about what to expect in terms of pain. For example, he says, before some surgeries, patients might be told: “You’re going to have shoulder pain that’s going to feel like you’ve been in the garage all day putting boxes on the shelf all the time,” or “Your belly is going to feel like you did 1,000 sit-ups.”

This eliminates the “fear and anxiety” that comes with not knowing what to expect regarding pain, he said.

Ask about coffee. Yes, coffee.

According to Dr. Manning, patients who regularly drink “a robust amount” of coffee may experience more postoperative pain following afternoon surgery because they’ve gone for an unusually long time without caffeine. Take a “coffee history,” he advised, and ask how much coffee the patient would have consumed by this time on a normal day. Then give patients caffeine as needed. (Coffee is considered a clear beverage under the American Society of Anesthesiologists guidelines.)

“It takes the edge off and helps reduce postoperative pain,” he said.

Global Academy for Medical Education and this news organization are owned by the same parent company. Dr. Manning has no disclosures.