Management of postoperative nausea and vomiting
Patients who experience postoperative nausea and vomiting describe it as the worst side effect of their surgery and remember it for longer than any other side effect. Ronan O'Leary and coauthors explain a stepwise approach to managing this important surgical complication
- By: Ronan O'Leary, Sharan Wadhwani, Peter Cole
The management of postoperative nausea and vomiting is a core task of a junior doctor on a surgical firm. Indeed, nausea and vomiting is one of the most common and unpleasant complications of admission for a surgical procedure. Unfortunately, this common condition is often managed ineffectively.
To accurately quantify the number of patients affected is difficult, because it is often under-reported, but research has shown that as many as 30% of patients develop postoperative nausea and vomiting.1 Nausea and vomiting may be part of the natural history of disease; or be due to the side effects of drugs, particularly analgesics; or be the result of the effect that hospital admission can have on sleeping and diet. Patients who are young and female, and those undergoing bowel or gynaecological surgery, have been shown to be particularly at risk.1
Nausea and vomiting is mostly not life threatening and is always self limiting;