It is very important that patients have an empty stomach before any surgery or procedure that needs anesthesia. When anesthesia is given, it is common for all the normal reflexes to relax. This condition makes it easy for stomach contents to go backwards into the esophagus (food tube) and mouth or even the windpipe and lungs. Because the stomach contains acid, if any stomach contents do get into the lungs, they can cause a serious pneumonia, called aspiration pneumonitis.
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