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Fasting or starving? Measurement of blood ketone levels in 100 fasted elective and emergency adult surgical patients at an Australian tertiary hospital

Department of Anaesthesia, John Hunter Hospital, Newcastle, New South Wales


Prolonged fasting leads to a shift from carbohydrate to fat as the primary energy source, resulting in the production of ketones such as beta-hydroxybutyrate. Hyperketonaemia and ketoacidosis have been observed in young children fasting for surgery. The aim of this study was to investigate ketonaemia in adults fasted for surgery. One hundred non-diabetic adults presenting for elective or emergency surgery were assessed for the presence of hyperketonaemia (beta-hydroxybutyrate levels more than 1 mmol/l), and the relationship between beta-hydroxybutyrate, blood glucose and fasting duration was investigated. Three of 100 patients demonstrated hyperketonaemia, one of whom had ingested a ketogenic supplement the evening prior to surgery. No patient demonstrated beta-hydroxybutyrate levels suggestive of ketoacidosis (above 3 mmol/l). No relationship between fasting duration and ketone or glucose levels was observed. We found no evidence that prolonged preoperative fasting led to beta-hydroxybutyrate levels consistent with ketoacidosis.

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