In this section
This guideline was written by the staff of the Children's Pain Management Service (CPMS) for the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne.
The cause of postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV) is the complex mechanical and chemical interactions between the brain (vomiting centre, chemoreceptor trigger centre and middle ear) and gastro intestinal tract.
Nausea and vomiting are unpleasant experiences which are rated by patients to be as distressing as pain. PONV is a common recognised complication of general anaesthetic/surgery and the perioperative use of opioids.
PONV is multifactorial in children due to the patient's history of previous motion sickness or PONV, the surgery type, the anaesthetic type, and agents used, length of surgery, length of fasting time, analgesic and antiemetic medications and techniques employed, the presence of pain, as well as psychological distress.
PONV can delay recovery and discharge from hospital adding both a resource, cost patient and family burden.
Combinations of antiemetic medications or interventions appear to be more effective than a single agent. A combination of 5HT3 receptor antagonist ("tron") and dexamethasone given as prophylaxis has shown that less rescue antiemetics were required. (Shug et al 2015 2020)
There is a recommendation for perioperative prophylaxis antiemetics based on patient age, surgery type, anaesthetic agents and previous history.
Age > 3, Past history of PONV, History of motion sickness, Post-pubertal girls, Preoperative anxiety
Strabismus, Otoplasty, Adenotonsillectomy, Surgery requiring postoperative inpatient (vs day stay),Volatile anaesthesia
For children >2 years who are to receive surgery requiring postoperative analgesia infusions with potential risk of PONV, CPMS recommend a minimum of two antiemetic interventions intraoperatively
Antiemetic options depend on what has been given intra and postoperatively
Below recommendations are local to RCH and incorporate cost considerations
IV 0.04mg/kg Daily usual maximum1mg dose.
(prescription limited to Anaesthetic OR Children's Pain Management Service (CPMS) Consultants, Fellows and Registrars)
OR if no IV access - Ondansetron SL disintegrating tablet 0.1mg/kg usual maximum dose 4mg
IV or PO 0.15-0.2mg/kg 6 hourly usual maximum dose10mg/dose
Consider for bilious vomiting; only continue if effective
IV 0.01 mg/kg 8 hourly usual, maximum 0.5mg/dose
Consider as 3rd line for children 10 years or older; 4th line for children younger than 10 years of age
IV 0.5 mg/kg 8 hourly usual, maximum 25mg/dose
Consider as 3rd line for children less than 10 years of age; 4th line for children 10 years of age or older
Note : at RCH cyclizine is the most expensive antiemetic and requires Drug Usage Committee approval to prescribe
The 'tron' of choice at RCH is granisetron (due to cost considerations; other centres have co-purchasing agreements for ondansetron IV. If tolerating PO intake, ondansetron oral tablet or solution are also available).
First version written 1999, Updated Jan 2021