Stands for nil per os—a Latin abbreviation used as a physician order, generally in the hospital or before a procedure. It means “nothing by mouth” or “no food or water.”Relevance:A common order before a surgery or procedure. Typically, patients are asked to be NPO for food at least 12 hours before a surgery. For clear liquids, it is often six hours. This is to prevent food or liquid from regurgitating into the lungs when the patient is anesthetized.

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