Background: Postoperative nausea and vomiting are important causes of morbidity after general anesthesia. Nitrous oxide has been implicated as an emetogenic agent in many studies. However, several other trials have failed to sustain this claim. The authors tried to resolve this issue through a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials comparing the incidence of postoperative nausea and vomiting after anesthesia with or without nitrous oxide.
Methods: Of 37 published studies retrieved by a search of articles indexed on the MEDLINE database from 1966 to 1994, 24 studies (26 trials) with distinct nitrous-oxide and non-nitrous oxide groups were eligible for the meta-analysis. The pooled odds ratio and relative risk were calculated. Post boc subgroup analysis was also performed to qualify the result.
Results: The pooled odds ratio was 0.63 (0.53 to 0.75). Omission of nitrous oxide reduced the risk for postoperative nausea and vomiting by 28% (18% to 37%). In the subgroup analysis, the maximal effect of omission of nitrous oxide was seen in female patients. In patients undergoing abdominal surgery and general surgical procedures, the effect of omission of nitrous oxide, although in the same direction, was not significant.
Conclusion: Omission of nitrous oxide reduced the odds of postoperative nausea and vomiting by 37%, a reduction in risk of 28%.