Ondansetron Prescription Is Associated With Reduced Return Visits to the Pediatric Emergency Department for Children With Gastroenteritis

Ann Emerg Med. 2020 Nov;76(5):625-634. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2020.04.012. Epub 2020 May 26.


Study objective: We determine whether an ondansetron prescription for pediatric patients with vomiting or gastroenteritis is associated with decreased return visits to the emergency department (ED), and whether alternate diagnoses are more frequent on return visits in patients prescribed ondansetron.

Methods: This is a retrospective cohort study of patients 6 months to 18 years of age, presenting to a pediatric ED or its affiliated urgent care centers between 2012 and 2017 with an International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision or International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th Revision diagnosis of gastroenteritis, gastritis, vomiting, or vomiting with diarrhea. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to measure the association between an ondansetron prescription and the odds of 72-hour return visits. Rates of alternate diagnoses on return visits (appendicitis, intussusception, intracranial mass, meningitis, and diabetic ketoacidosis) were compared between patients who were prescribed ondansetron for home use and those who were not.

Results: A total of 82,139 patients were studied, with a median age of 4 years. An ondansetron prescription was given to 13.4% of patients on discharge. The 72-hour return visit rate was 4.7%. Patients receiving an ondansetron prescription had decreased odds of 72-hour return visits (adjusted odds ratio 0.84; 95% confidence interval 0.75 to 0.93). The subgroup of patients specifically receiving a diagnosis of gastroenteritis had decreased odds of 72-hour return visits (adjusted odds ratio 0.82; 95% confidence interval 0.72 to 0.95). There was no significant difference between groups in the diagnosis of appendicitis on return visit (odds ratio 0.97; 95% confidence interval 0.37 to 2.18).

Conclusion: An ondansetron prescription is associated with reduced 72-hour ED return visit rates for children with vomiting or acute gastroenteritis and is not associated with masking alternate diagnoses.

MeSH terms

  • Antiemetics / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Gastroenteritis / drug therapy*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Ondansetron / therapeutic use*
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Vomiting / drug therapy*


  • Antiemetics
  • Ondansetron