Regurgitation and aspiration

Questions

 

What is regurgitation and aspiration?

Regurgitation is a passive process whereby the stomach contents are brought up into the oesophagus (food tube). It may occur at any point during anaesthesia. Aspiration is the inhaling of those contents into the lungs, where the acidic contents may damage the lung tissue.
Several factors work towards regurgitation and aspiration happening, including emergency surgery, light anaesthesia, upper and lower gastrointestinal (gut) disease, obesity, gastroesophageal reflux (heartburn), impaired consciousness level and hiatus hernia of the stomach.
Trauma, labour and opioid medications slow down stomach emptying. The anaesthetist will account for these factors and may perform a "rapid sequence induction". In this procedure, 100 per cent oxygen is administered for several minutes before administering the drugs that put you to sleep. This fills your lungs with 100 per cent oxygen. The assistant to the anaesthetist will lightly press on your throat before any loss of consciousness to prevent any substances coming up from the stomach (regurgitation) and into the throat form where they can then be inhaled into the lungs (aspiration).

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