A time-motion economic analysis of postoperative nausea and vomiting in ambulatory surgery

Can J Anaesth. 2012 Apr;59(4):366-75. doi: 10.1007/s12630-011-9660-x. Epub 2012 Jan 6.


Background: One-third of surgical outpatients experience postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV) during their hospital stay or post-discharge nausea and vomiting (PDNV) after hospitalization. We determined the incremental costs of PONV/PDNV in ambulatory patients with this time-and-motion study.

Methods: In 100 ambulatory surgery patients, we evaluated the incidence of PONV, time staff spent with patients, use of PONV-related supplies, recovery duration, PONV rescue treatments, and quality-of-life through to the third postoperative morning. Patients with and without PONV/PDNV were compared in relation to PONV-related cost after adjusting for age, American Society of Anesthesiologists status, body mass index, and duration and complexity of surgery.

Results: Thirty-seven percent of the patients experienced PONV during hospitalization; this increased to 42% by the first postoperative morning and increased further to 49% by the third postoperative morning. Patients with PONV spent one hour longer in the postanesthesia care unit than patients without PONV (median [interquartile range] 234 [188-287] min vs 171 [144-212] min, respectively; P = 0.001). The amount of nursing time required for patients with PONV was significantly greater than that required for patients without PONV (82 [63-106] min vs 68 [57-79] min, respectively; P = 0.02). The total cost of postoperative recovery was significantly greater for patients with PONV/PDNV than for those without (US$730 vs $640, respectively; P = 0.006). Postoperative nausea and vomiting/PDNV was associated with an adjusted incremental total cost of $75 (95% confidence interval $67 to $86). Postoperative nausea and vomiting was also associated with worsened postoperative quality of life (49% of patients with PONV/PDNV rated quality high in four domains vs 94% of patients without PONV/PDNV; P < 0.001).

Conclusion: Postoperative nausea and vomiting/PDNV were common; they impaired quality of life and imposed an incremental cost of $75 per patient. This incremental cost is comparable with the cost patients are willing to pay to avoid PONV.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting / economics*
  • Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting / nursing
  • Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting / psychology
  • Quality of Life
  • Time Factors