Two alternative treatments, including aromatherapy, may help relieve postoperative nausea

Research Shows Aromatherapy May Help Relieve Nausea After Surgery, MASSAGE MagazineSan Francisco, CA. Aromatherapy and intravenous administration of a simple sugar solution may relieve nausea and vomiting after surgery, according to recent research. The pair of studies on these nondrug treatments are published in the September issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia. This journal is the official journal of the International Anesthesia Research Society (IARS).

“Aromatherapy is promising as an inexpensive, noninvasive treatment for postoperative nausea that can be administered and controlled by patients as needed,” according to a research report by Dr. Ronald Hunt of Carolinas Medical Center University in Charlotte, North Carolina, and colleagues. The second study suggests that intravenous dextrose solution is also useful in managing the common problem of postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV).

Aromatherapy reduces nausea after surgery

In the aromatherapy study, 301 patients reporting nausea after surgery were randomly assigned to receive one of four types of aromatherapy. Two groups received true aromatherapy, with essential oil of ginger or a blend of aromatherapy oils (ginger, spearmint, peppermint, and cardamom) placed on a gauze pad.

The other two groups received gauze pads with nonaromatherapy solutions: either rubbing alcohol or, as an odorless placebo, saline solution. Rates of subsequent nausea and vomiting and need for antinausea (antiemetic) medications were compared between groups.

Patients receiving the two aromatherapy treatments had lower nausea scores, compared to those receiving the placebo saline solution. In contrast, rubbing alcohol had no significant effect on nausea, compared to saline solution. Patients receiving aromatherapy were also less likely to require antiemetic drugs.

The aromatherapy blend was somewhat more effective than ginger only. About 80 percent of patients receiving the blend had improvement in nausea, compared to about 70 percent with ginger only (versus 40 to 50 percent with saline solution or rubbing alcohol).

Promising results with IV dextrose solution

In the second study, Dr. Susan Dabu-Bondoc and colleagues of Yale School of Medicine evaluated intravenous administration of a 5-percent solution of dextrose—a simple sugar—for prevention or treatment of PONV. Immediately after surgery, 62 patients were randomly assigned to receive the dextrose solution or standard IV fluid.

Postoperative nausea scores were not significantly different between groups. However, patients receiving intravenous dextrose needed less antiemetic medications than those receiving standard IV fluids. Patients in the IV dextrose group were also ready for discharge from the recovery room a little earlier.

Postoperative nausea and vomiting is a common complication, occurring in up to one-third of untreated surgical patients. It’s a problem that’s not only unpleasant for patients and associated with increased costs for antiemetic medications, but is also linked to prolonged hospitalization and an increased risk of readmission. Effective, nondrug approaches to preventing and managing PONV are needed.

The new results suggest that aromatherapy is a simple and effective treatment for patients developing nausea after surgery. “[A]romatherapy as a fast-acting agent either alone or combined with antiemetic medications merits additional research in the treatment of nausea,” Hunt and co-authors conclude.

Given immediately after surgery, IV dextrose doesn’t reduce postoperative nausea scores. However, it may be effective in reducing the need for antiemetic drugs and shortening time in the recovery room. Dabu-Bondoc and colleagues write, “This form of PONV therapy has a low side effect profile, is easily accessible, and is inexpensive.”

Read the articles in Anesthesia & Analgesia, published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

About Anesthesia & Analgesia

Anesthesia & Analgesia was founded in 1922 and was issued bi-monthly until 1980, when it became a monthly publication. A&A is the leading journal for anesthesia clinicians and researchers and includes more than 500 articles annually in all areas related to anesthesia and analgesia, such as cardiovascular anesthesiology, patient safety, anesthetic pharmacology and pain management. 

About the IARS

The International Anesthesia Research Society is a nonpolitical, not-for-profit medical society founded in 1922 to advance and support scientific research and education related to anesthesia, and to improve patient care through basic research. The IARS contributes nearly $1 million annually to fund anesthesia research; provides a forum for anesthesiology leaders to share information and ideas; maintains a worldwide membership of more than 15,000 physicians, physician residents, and others with doctoral degrees, as well as health professionals in anesthesia related practice; sponsors the SmartTots initiative in partnership with the FDA; and publishes the monthly journal Anesthesia & Analgesia in print and online.

About Wolters Kluwer Health

Wolters Kluwer Health is a leading global provider of information, business intelligence and point-of-care solutions for the health care industry. Serving more than 150 countries and territories worldwide, Wolters Kluwer Health’s customers include professionals, institutions and students in medicine, nursing, allied health and pharmacy. 

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