Objectives: To compare the efficacy of intravenous ondansetron or dexamethasone compared with intravenous fluid therapy alone in children presenting to the emergency department with refractory vomiting from viral gastritis who had failed attempts at oral hydration.
Methods: This double-blind, randomized, controlled trial was performed in a tertiary care pediatric emergency department. Children aged 6 months to 12 years presenting with more than three episodes of vomiting in the past 24 hours, mild/moderate dehydration, and failed oral hydration were included. Patients with other medical causes were excluded. Subjects were randomized to dexamethasone 1 mg/kg (15 mg maximum), ondansetron 0.15 mg/kg, or placebo (normal saline [NS], 10 mL). All subjects also received intravenous NS at 10-20 mL/kg/hr. Oral fluid tolerance was evaluated at two and four hours. Those not tolerating oral fluids at four hours were admitted. Discharged patients were evaluated at 24 and 72 hours for vomiting and repeat health care visits. The primary study outcome was hospitalization rates between the groups. Data were analyzed using chi-square test, Kruskal-Wallis test, Mantel-Haenszel test, and analysis of variance, with p < 0.05 considered significant.
Results: A total of 166 subjects were enrolled; data for analysis were available for 44 NS-treated patients, 46 ondansetron-treated patients, and 47 dexamethasone-treated patients. Hospital admission occurred in nine patients (20.5%) receiving placebo (NS alone), two patients (4.4%) receiving ondansetron, and seven patients (14.9%) receiving dexamethasone, with ondansetron significantly different from placebo (p = 0.02). Similarly, at two hours, more ondansetron-treated patients (39 [86.6%]) tolerated oral hydration than NS-treated patients (29 [67.4%]; relative risk, 1.28; 95% confidence interval = 1.02 to 1.68). There were no differences in number of mean episodes of vomiting or repeat visits to health care at 24 and 72 hours in the ondansetron, dexamethasone, or NS groups.
Conclusions: In children with dehydration secondary to vomiting from acute viral gastritis, ondansetron with intravenous rehydration improves tolerance of oral fluids after two hours and reduces the hospital admission rate when compared with intravenous rehydration with or without dexamethasone.