Preventing nausea and vomiting in women undergoing regional anesthesia for cesarean section: challenges and solutions

Local Reg Anesth. 2017 Aug 9:10:83-90. doi: 10.2147/LRA.S111459. eCollection 2017.


Background: Intraoperative nausea and vomiting (IONV) or postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV) affecting women undergoing regional anesthesia for cesarean section is an important clinical problem since these techniques are used widely. There are burdens of literature about IONV/PONV and several in parturient and cesarean. However, it needs more attention. The underlying mechanisms of IONV and PONV in the obstetrical setting mainly include hypotension due to sympathicolysis during neuraxial anesthesia, bradycardia owing to an increased vagal tone, the visceral stimulation via the surgical procedure and intravenously administered opioids.

Methods: Given the high and even increasing rate of cesarean sections and the sparse information on the etiology, incidence and severity of nausea and vomiting and the impact of prophylactic measures on the incidence of PONV/IONV, this article aims to review the available information and provide pragmatic suggestions on how to prevent nausea and vomiting in this patient cohort. Current literature and guidelines were identified by electronic database searching (MEDLINE via PubMed and Cochrane database of systematic reviews) up to present, searching through reference lists of included literature and personal contact with experts.

Discussion and conclusion: Taking into account the current guidelines and literature as well as everyday clinical experience, the first step for decreasing the incidence of IONV and PONV is a comprehensive management of circulatory parameters. This management includes liberal perioperative fluid administration and the application of vasopressors as the circumstances require. By using low-dose local anesthetics, an additional application of intrathecal or spinal opioids or hyperbaric solutions for a sufficient controllability of neuraxial distribution, maternal hypotension might be reduced. Performing a combined spinal-epidural anesthesia or epidural anesthesia may be considered as an alternative to spinal anesthesia. Antiemetic drugs may be administered restrainedly due to off-label use in pregnant women for IONV or PONV prophylaxis and may be reserved for treatment.

Keywords: PONV; antiemetics; hypotension; neuraxial anesthesia; obstetrics.

Publication types

  • Review