NPO medical abbreviation: what does npo mean in medical terms

NPO medical abbreviation word is a Latin acronym of “nihil per orem” which means “nothing by mouth”. The word signifies a medical term that means don’t swallow anything for a certain amount of time. It is a restriction used in the medical world. The food habit gap prior to a blood test or surgery is known as NPO. The fasting guidelines are prescribed by the respective doctor. It is a part of the treatment, which should be taken care of.

What is NPO medical abbreviation?

NPO medical abbreviation is used by doctors for patients who are going to have a blood test or any kind of surgery. The process includes a total of bowel rest. The rules about stopping eating or drinking are created for keeping patients safe. For decades anesthesiologists advised patients not to eat or drink anything after midnight before having surgery in the morning. The process has undoubtedly been upgraded but in most cases, the doctor tells the patient to have NPO.

Why do doctors recommend npo?

It is very important to stay on an empty stomach before having any surgery or procedure that requires anesthesia. There are many reasons for this:

  • Prevent nausea and vomiting
  • Keep any food or liquid from getting into the lungs
  • Prevent choking
  • Reduces the risk of aspiration and complication
  • Prevent abdominal trauma
  • Risk of infection and surgery complications
  • Bowel prep interference

Anyone who has had surgery is well aware of the NPO medical abbreviation. The term is used by surgeons or doctors prior to surgery or treatment which includes anesthesia. A patient should not do anything after midnight. Solid food is strictly prohibited, liquid food like water, apple juice, black tea can be taken but two hours prior to the surgery. Surgery needs an empty stomach, as solid food takes more time to digest itself than liquid food, it should be taken at least 8 hours before the surgery timing. The good news is that most people sleep through most of the eight to 12 hour period of fasting before surgery as most of the surgeries are scheduled in the early morning. Patients may stop eating around during dinnertime the night before surgery and then don’t take anything by mouth from when they wake up until surgery is completed.

NPO medical abbreviation is the part of a multi-part diagnostic or treatment plan, such as holding off having anything before a surgery which includes an anesthetic process. Every procedure has different and special fasting instructions. Every age group has a different fasting routine to follow. Although only a few studies have been published about a patient’s ability to eat food before the procedure. So few foods are totally restricted before surgery such as milk, heavy cream. Milk is protein-based and also has a lot of fat in it. So the digestive system of the human body takes much longer to process it than other liquids.

NPO medical abbreviation is an instruction meaning to withhold oral food and fluids from a patient. Fasting is just one of many instructions that appear on a patient’s preoperative preparation list. There are many guidelines including bathing process, medications and even removing of contact lenses is considered an important aspect before surgery. Regardless of surgery type, every doctor and anesthetics wants a clear stomach before surgery.


Because anesthesia can reduce your body’s ability to protect and prevent food or acids from the stomach from entering the lungs, this process is known as aspiration. Normally, our body is able to prevent this, but anesthesia medicines make it harder for the body to do so. Aspiration can happen with saliva or the food and fluid you drink. There is also a tube in your throat, called an endotracheal tube, which can make it easier to aspirate and harder for medical staff to realize it is happening. While this is rare, it can be dangerous and in a few cases, doctors can lose the patients for this negligence.

Nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are the most common complications of surgery. It is easier to prevent than to treat and control. The easiest way to prevent it is to have an empty stomach when anesthesia is provided As anesthesia makes you asleep and paralyzed, your ability to cough, or even to spit vomit out of your mouth, is taken away and the risk of aspiration becomes high.

Bowel prep interference

If you are having a surgery-related gastrointestinal system then having food in your system could complicate the surgery and lead to various infections. In a few cases, you have to complete your bowel process prior to surgery. Eating or drinking after your bowel preparation could undo all of your efforts to empty your digestive tract.

NPO medical abbreviation If a patient shows up for surgery and the fasting rules have not been followed, a delay or even re-scheduling of surgery can occur. If a patient has disobeyed the doctor’s restriction and had food recently then it is the doctor’s responsibility to postpone or cancel the procedure to ensure the safety of the patients. The delay may be for an hour or two depending on what the patient ate or drank. The instructions given to patients prior to surgery have been established for a patient’s safety. Those instructions also are designed to minimize risk, lower complications like infection, and enhance a patient’s recovery process.

The very known mistake done by the patients is they think they should have a heavy and huge meal before the 8- 12 hour of fasting. But this temptation can completely defeat the purpose of fasting. As the foods will take a lot of time to digest and negates the effect of abstaining from food and drink prior to surgery. Instead of that, one should have a light meal such as soup and salad for the final meal before surgery. And if your doctor has said to take you any medicine you should take it with a little sip of water. One should remember that serious complications after surgery can take place if instructions are not followed properly.

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