The prevention of emesis in plastic surgery: A randomized, prospective study

Jeffrey R. Marcus, Julius W. Few, Jerome D. Chao, Neil A. Fine, Thomas A. Mustoe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Perhaps the most unpleasant experience following outpatient plastic surgery procedures is postoperative nausea and vomiting. Postoperative nausea and vomiting often results in delayed recovery time and unintended admission, and it can be a contributing factor to the formation of hematoma following rhytidectomy. Ondansetron (Zofran) has proven benefit in preventing postoperative nausea and vomiting if given before general anesthesia in a variety of surgical procedures. Its utility in cases performed under conscious sedation has not been determined. The purpose of this study was (1) to test the ability of prophylactic ondansetron to prevent postoperative nausea and vomiting in plastic surgery cases performed under conscious sedation, and (2) to determine relative risk factors for postoperative nausea and vomiting and a selection policy for the administration of antiemetic prophylaxis. This was a prospective, randomized, double-blind study. One hundred twenty patients were enrolled after giving informed consent. Patients received a single dose of either placebo or ondansetron (4 mg intravenously) before administration of sedation. Sedation administration followed a standardized institutional protocol, using midazolam and fentanyl. Data were recorded from a series of three questionnaires: preoperatively, immediately postoperatively, and at the time of the first office return. Data were confirmed by means of telephone interview, chart analysis, and nursing documentation. Multivariate analysis was conducted. Nausea and emesis occurred with an overall frequency of 33 percent and 22 percent, respectively. Postoperative nausea and vomiting was associated with statistically longer recovery periods. The incidence of emesis was statistically higher among women, among those undergoing facial rejuvenation, and among those with a history of opioid-induced emesis or postoperative nausea and vomiting following a previous operation (p < 0.05). The incidence of postoperative nausea and vomiting paralleled increases in case duration; the incidence of emesis was zero in cases less than 90 minutes in duration. Ondansetron significantly reduced the incidence of emesis overall (placebo, 30 percent; ondansetron, 13 percent; p < 0.05). Postoperative perception of nausea was significantly lower among those who had received ondansetron (p < 0.05). These results confirm the efficacy of ondansetron for the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting in plastic surgery cases under conscious sedation. In those who are at increased risk, prophylaxis should be considered. Such risks include female gender, facial rejuvenation procedures, and a patient history of opioid-induced emesis or postoperative nausea and vomiting following a prior operation. The zero incidence of emesis in cases less than 90 minutes does not support the routine use of prophylaxis in such cases. Patient satisfaction in plastic surgery is derived from the overall subjective experience of the event as much as by the final result. By remaining attentive to patient concerns and optimizing perioperative care, we can improve the subjective experience for our patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2487-2494
Number of pages8
JournalPlastic and reconstructive surgery
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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