PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Morgan Schweikert had two surgeries within a year.

First, a C-section.

“I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything after midnight,” Morgan says. “I felt like I was dehydrated, I still couldn’t eat or drink anything the full day after. I just did not feel well.”

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Then, a hysterectomy.

“Not allowed to eat after midnight, but I was allowed to drink clear liquids,” she says. “I drank Gatorade two hours prior to the surgery. Afterwards, I felt great. I wasn’t dehydrated. I didn’t feel nauseated at all.”

The typical instructions before surgery had been nothing to eat or drink after midnight.

Now, doctors are saying you can have something to drink up to two hours before.

The reason people had been instructed to take nothing by mouth is the big concern that while you’re under anesthesia, anything left in the stomach might flow back up into the swallowing tube and into the lungs — something called aspiration.

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“Which can cause significant problems, including pneumonia and even death in some cases,” says Dr. Paul Tarasi, an anesthesiologist at the Allegheny Health Network. “It was kind of a safety net that everyone followed.”

Turns out, this restriction caused problems too — such as dehydration and then, more pain and nausea after the fluid is restored by vein.

Patients can have water, apple juice, or Gatorade.

Allowing fluid, but not food, keeps this problem at bay and it actually keeps things moving, so the stomach is more likely to empty.

Patients can have water, apple juice, or Gatorade. (Credit: CBS Pittsburgh)

“Surgery by itself is stressful, and they have anxiety. So you want to make it easier on them,” says Dr. George Eid, a bariatric surgeon at the Allegheny Health Network.

This approach has been in place about eight months now, brought here by a doctor from Yale. There, time in the hospital for his surgery patients went from 40 hours to 23 hours when they were allowed to have something to drink before heading into the operating room.

“Patients were super happy with their recovery times,” says Dr. Lee Hammons, an OBGYN at the Allegheny Health Network. “Most people appreciate going back to their normal life as quickly as possible.”

It’s slow to catch on, though.

“I get it, for a lot of places, it’s hard to institute these changes. It’s a lot of work,” Dr. Hammons says.

Morgan says having something to drink before surgery may have helped her post-op recovery.

“For the C-section, I actually had to take pain medications, and for the hysterectomy, I took maybe two or three of them. I was at home the next day,” she says.