Studies & White Papers

Healthy Eating for Elective Major Orthopedic Surgery: Quality, Quantity, and Timing

Improvements to enhanced recovery pathways in orthopedic surgery are reducing the time that patients spend in the hospital, giving an increasingly vital role to prehabilitation and/or rehabilitation after surgery. Nutritional support is an important tenant of perioperative medicine, with the aim to integrate the patient’s diet with food components that are needed in greater amounts to support surgical fitness. Regardless of the time available between the time of contemplation of surgery and the day of admission, a patient who eats healthy is reasonably more suitable for surgery than a patient who does not meet the daily requirements for energy and nutrients. Moreover, a successful education for healthy food choices is one possible way to sustain the exercise therapy, improve recovery, and thus contribute to the patient’s long-term health. The expected benefits presuppose that the patient follows a healthy diet, but it is unclear which advice is needed to improve dietary choices. We present the principles of healthy eating for patients undergoing major orthopedic surgery to lay the foundations of rational and valuable perioperative nutritional support programs. We discuss the concepts of nutritional use of food, requirements, portion size, dietary target, food variety, time variables of feeding, and the practical indications on what the last meal to be consumed six hours before the induction of anesthesia may be together with what is meant by clear fluids to be consumed until two hours before. Surgery may act as a vital “touch point” for some patients with the health service and is therefore a valuable opportunity for members of the perioperative team to promote optimal lifestyle choices, such as the notion and importance of healthy eating not just for surgery but also for long-term health benefit.

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Published on July 24, 2023