Total Fasting and Dehydration in the Operating Room: How Can Surgeons Survive and Thrive?

Brian Y. Hwang, David Mampre, John R. Boesch, Judy Huang, William S. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Hydration and nutrition are critical to achieving optimal performance. This study aimed to assess the impact of limited oral intake in the operating room environment on surgical resident health, well-being, and performance. Design: Electronic survey was sent to 94 surgical trainees at our institution in 2020. Chi-square analyses were performed to assess for differences in survey responses by sex. Setting: A single tertiary-care institution. Participants: Surveys were sent to surgical residents and fellows in general surgery, neurosurgery, and orthopedic surgery. Seventy-nine (80%) of the 94 residents and fellows responded. Results: Of the 79 responses, most trainees (79%) experienced dehydration within 6 hours of operating. Forty-four (56%) reported no fluid intake for greater than 6 hours on average, and 39 (49%) reported that they frequently had difficulty rehydrating in between cases. Most of the respondents (70%) frequently experienced symptoms of dehydration, including orthostasis, headache, and constipation. Fifty-six (71%) believed that dehydration frequently affected their performance. Compared to men, women were more likely to feel dehydrated within 4 hours of operating (58% vs. 25%, p = 0.005). Women were also more likely to have difficulty rehydrating in between cases (75% vs. 38%, p = 0.0026), experience symptoms of dehydration (92% vs. 60%, p = 0.0049), and report that dehydration affects surgical performance (88% vs. 64%, p = 0.0318). Conclusions: Prolonged fasting and dehydration are common issues that may negatively impact performance and wellbeing of surgical trainees. Also, dehydration may affect men and women differently.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1295-1304
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of surgical education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021


  • dehydration
  • diet
  • fasting
  • operating room
  • performance
  • surgical resident

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Surgery


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