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Fasting before Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) – Patient information leaflet

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This leaflet may not be reproduced in whole or in part, without the permission of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

  • About this leaflet

    This leaflet provides information about not eating or drinking (fasting) before ECT treatment for adults. The information provided is based on the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland guidelines for fasting times alongside input from medical professionals working at Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust.

    Fasting is important to prevent complications during ECT. If you have food or fluid in your stomach when you are under anaesthetic this may cause you to vomit and become unwell. It is also important not to fast for too long as this is unnecessary and can make you feel worse, affecting your treatment experience.

  • How long should I fast for?

    Eat as you normally would the day before your treatment. You are able to eat food up to six hours before your treatment but must not eat anything after this time. This includes not eating chewing gum or drinking milk (including in other drinks) for the six hours before treatment. Try to eat something no longer than 16 hours before your treatment. Usually having supper before going to bed will be sufficient.

    Drink as you normally would the day before your treatment. You can drink as much clear fluids as you would like up until two hours before your treatment and this is encouraged to maintain hydration. Clear fluids include water, weak cordial or squash, and weak black tea or black coffee. Make sure you have some fluids within at least four hours of your appointment.
    Drinks made from milk (such as hot chocolate and coffee made with milk) and carbonated drinks (such as lemonade and cola) count as food and should not be consumed within six hours.

    It is very important that you do not drink any fluids within the two hours before your treatment except to take premedication (the ECT team will advise if this is necessary). 100ml (or 1/2 small cup) of water only is permitted to take this medication within one hour of your appointment.

  • What happens after my treatment?

    ECT staff will provide you with something to eat and drink after you have completed your treatment and recovered from the anaesthetic.

  • Information about content, other formats and version control

    Further information about the content, reference sources or production of this leaflet can be obtained from the Patient Information Centre. If you would like to tell us what you think about this leaflet please get in touch.

    This information can be made available in a range of formats on request (eg Braille, audio, larger print, easy read, BSL or other languages). Please contact the Patient Information Centre Tel: 0191 246 7288

    Published by the Patient Information Centre
    2021 Copyright, Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust
    Ref, PIC/846/0521 May 2021 V1 Tel: 0191 246 7288
    Review date 2024