Section 1:
Feeling sick
Section 1: Feeling sick
This leaflet explains the causes of sickness following anaesthesia and
surgery, what can be done to prevent it occurring, and treatments available
if it does happen to you.
Some words explained
Nausea. This is an unpleasant sensation,
usually in the stomach, also described as operation and anaesthetic you are having. ‘feeling queasy’ or ‘feeling sick’. It is often These are explained here.
felt with the urge to vomit.
Why do some people feel sick after
Vomiting. This means being sick. It
know affect how likely you are to feel sick PONV. These letters are used to mean
post-operative nausea and vomiting. ‘Post- The operation you are having
operative’ means that it happens after the operation.
Some operations cause more sickness than others, for example: Anti-emetic drugs. These are medicines 4 operations in the abdomen or genital
that help to prevent or treat nausea and General anaesthesia. This is a state of
you feel nothing and may be described as Your anaesthetist will be able to tell you Regional anaesthesia. This involves
if your operation is likely to cause post- Drugs that are used
‘Anaesthesia Explained’, which is on the (
Will I feel sick after my operation?
Who you are
Not everyone feels sick after an operation third of people (1 in 3) will experience a 1 Risks associated with your anaesthetic v Information for Patients: The Royal College of Anaesthetists
Section 1:
Feeling sick
4 those who suffer from ‘travel sickness’ particularly if you are retching or vomiting, and it can delay when you start eating and drinking after your operation. This may Other reasons
4 Being without food or drink before and Rarely, if vomiting is severe and lasts a long time, it can result in other more serious problems, such as damage to your operation site, tears to your oesophagus (gullet), or Can anything be done to prevent
me from feeling sick after my
experiencing sickness when they visit you before your operation.
I felt sick after my last operation.
Will I feel sick after this operation?
anaesthetist can change your anaesthetic in order to reduce your chance of reduce the likelihood of a recurrence.
operation performed under a regional anaesthetic rather than general But if you have had sickness after surgery ‘anti-sickness’ medicines, called anti- previously, you are more likely to have it emetics, as part of your anaesthetic.1–5 again than if you have had an anaesthetic 4 Some anaesthetic drugs are less likely to cause sickness than others. Your anaesthetist may decide that you are How long does the feeling of
sickness last?
short-lived or stops following treatment. Uncommonly, it can be prolonged and last Can feeling sick after an operation
called a ‘drip’). This may be given for Feeling sick or vomiting after an operation is 2 Risks associated with your anaesthetic v Information for Patients: The Royal College of Anaesthetists
Section 1:
Feeling sick
4 Ondansetron (Zofran) or granisetron
have experienced it following a previous (Kytril) or tropisetron (Navoban).
operation, it is important that you inform 4 Dexamethasone. Although a steroid
Is there any treatment available if I
feel sick after my operation?
nausea and vomiting does not seem to be associated with the side effects seen Yes. If you feel sick after your operation, 4 Prochlorperazine (Stemetil).
4 Scopolamine (Scopoderm). Can
It is much easier to relieve the feeling of sickness if it is dealt with before it gets too bad. So, you should ask for help as soon Can I do anything to avoid feeling
What drugs may I be given and do
they have side effects?
Anti-emetic drugs can be given as a tablet 4 avoid sitting up or getting out of bed or as an injection. Injections can be given intra-venously into your cannula or into your leg or buttock muscle. Intra-venous injections work more quickly and reliably after your operation. Start with small sips of water and slowly build up to and avoid the need for another needle.
several different types. A combination of anti-emetic drugs may be given, as this is more effective than one drug given on its Where can I get further information?
If you want to ask any further questions about the type of anaesthetic planned for 4 Cyclizine (Valoid). May cause
your operation please contact your local 3 Risks associated with your anaesthetic v Information for Patients: The Royal College of Anaesthetists
Section 1:
Feeling sick
Dr Ian Selby, FRCA
1 Apfel CC et al. IMPACT Investigators. A factorial
Consultant Anaesthetist
trial of six interventions for the prevention of Hull Royal Infirmary
postoperative nausea and vomiting. N Engl J Med
2 Gan TJ. Risk factors for postoperative nausea and
vomiting. Anesth Analg 2006;102:1884–1898.
Dr Tim Smith, MD FRCA
3 Harmer M. Pharmacological intervention in post-
Consultant Anaesthetist
operative nausea and vomiting: scientific evidence Alexandra Hospital, Redditch
and expert opinion for anti-emetic therapy for Final FRCA examiner
prophylaxis. In: Strunin L, Rowbotham DJ, Miles A (Eds). The effective management of post-operative nausea and vomiting, 2nd edition. Aesculapius Medical Press, London 2003; pp 53–70.
4 Gan TJ et al. Consensus guidelines for managing
postoperative nausea and vomiting. Anesth Analg
5 Gan TJ et al. Society for Ambulatory Anesthesia
guidelines for the management of postoperative
nausea and vomiting. Anesth Analg 2007;105:1615–
6 Apfel CC et al. Acustimulation of P6: an antiemetic
alternative with no risk of drug-induced side-efects.
Br J Anaesth 2009;102:585-586.
The Royal College of Anaesthetists
The material from this article may be copied for the purpose of producing information materials for patients. Please quote the RCoA as the source of the information. If you wish to use part of the article in another publication, suitable acknowledgement must be given and the RCoA logo must be removed. For more information or enquiries about the use of this leaflet please contact: The Royal College of Anaesthetists
This leaflet will be reviewed three years from the date of publication.
4 Risks associated with your anaesthetic v Information for Patients: The Royal College of Anaesthetists


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