Risk factors for postoperative nausea and vomiting

Anesth Analg. 2006 Jun;102(6):1884-98. doi: 10.1213/01.ANE.0000219597.16143.4D.


Knowledge of postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV) risk factors allows anesthesiologists to optimize the use of prophylactic regimens. Modern PONV risk research began in the 1990s with publication of studies using logistic regression analysis to simultaneously identify multiple independent PONV predictors and publication of meta-analyses and systematic reviews. This literature shows that female gender post-puberty, nonsmoking status, history of PONV or motion sickness, childhood after infancy and younger adulthood, increasing duration of surgery, and use of volatile anesthetics, nitrous oxide, large-dose neostigmine, or intraoperative or postoperative opioids are well established PONV risk factors. Possible risk factors include history of migraine, history of PONV or motion sickness in a child's parent or sibling, better ASA physical status, intense preoperative anxiety, certain ethnicities or surgery types, decreased perioperative fluids, crystalloid versus colloid administration, increasing duration of anesthesia, general versus regional anesthesia or sedation, balanced versus total IV anesthesia, and use of longer-acting versus shorter-acting opioids. Early-phase menstruation, obesity and lack of supplemental oxygen are disproved risk factors. Current risk scoring systems have approximately 55%-80% accuracy in predicting which patient groups will suffer PONV. Further research examining genetic and under-investigated clinical patient characteristics as potential risk factors, and involving outpatients and children, should improve predictive systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting / classification
  • Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting / etiology*
  • Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting / prevention & control
  • Risk Factors