Patients fast after cardiothoracic surgery because of concerns for nausea, vomiting, dysphagia, and aspiration pneumonia; fasting, however, causes thirst, a distressing symptom. To our knowledge, no studies exist to guide hydration practices in this population.


To determine the effect of early oral hydration on adverse events and thirst in patients after cardiothoracic surgery.


This study applied a prospective 2-group design in which 149 patients from an 18-bed cardiothoracic intensive care unit were randomized to either usual care (a 6-hour fast) or early oral hydration after extubation. The research protocol involved nurses evaluating patients’ readiness for oral hydration and then offering them ice chips. If patients tolerated the ice chips, they were allowed to drink water 1 hour later.


Most patients (91.3%) had undergone coronary artery or valve surgery, or both. Demographic and clinical variables were similar in both groups. No significant between-group differences were found for the incidence of nausea, vomiting, or dysphagia, and no aspiration pneumonia occurred. Significantly more patients with a high thirst level were in the usual care group (81.2%) than in the early oral hydration group (56.5%; P = .002, r2 test). After adjustment for demographic and clinical variables by using logistic regression, early oral hydration was independently and negatively associated with a high thirst level (odds ratio, 0.30 [95% CI, 0.13-0.69]; P = .004).


This research provides new evidence that oral hydration (ice chips and water) soon after extubation is safe and significantly reduces thirst in particular patients.

You do not currently have access to this content.