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Acute gastroenteritis in children: role of anti-emetic medication for gastroenteritis-related vomiting.

Author(s): Leung AK, Robson WL

Affiliation(s): Department of Pediatrics, The University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Publication date & source: 2007, Paediatr Drugs., 9(3):175-84.

Acute gastroenteritis is associated with significant morbidity in developed countries and each year is the cause of death of several million children in developing countries. Acute gastroenteritis is usually self-limiting. Oral rehydration therapy (ORT) is effective and successful in the majority of patients. Vomiting is common at the outset of viral gastroenteritis and can limit the effectiveness of ORT. Treatment with newer anti-emetic medications has been reported to facilitate ORT and to minimize the risk of dehydration and the need for intravenous hydration and hospitalization.The role of anti-emetic medications in the treatment of gastroenteritis-related vomiting is not clear. Some physicians agree with the use of anti-emetic medications because vomiting is unpleasant and distressing for the child and parents alike, and because vomiting can increase the likelihood of dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and the need for intravenous hydration or hospitalization. Several surveys have shown that anti-emetic medications are commonly prescribed in the treatment of pediatric gastroenteritis and that adverse events are uncommon. Efficacy studies of the newer anti-emetic medications are now available and reveal that some are effective and help facilitate ORT. Other physicians disagree with the use of anti-emetic medications because acute gastroenteritis is a self-limiting condition, vomiting might help rid the body of toxic substances, there was previously a relative lack of published evidence of clinical benefit, and there are potential adverse events associated with the use of an anti-emetic medication. Anti-emetic medications that are currently available include ondansetron, granisetron, tropisetron, dolasetron, ramosetron, promethazine, dimenhydrinate, metoclopramide, domperidone, droperidol, prochlorperazine, and trimethobenzamide. Randomized, placebo-controlled trials suggest that ondansetron is efficacious and superior to other anti-emetic medications in the treatment of gastroenteritis-related vomiting. A recent double-blind clinical trial showed that a single oral dose of ondansetron reduces gastroenteritis-related vomiting and facilitates ORT without significant adverse events. Ondansetron shows promise as a first-line anti-emetic, and judicious use of this agent might increase the success of ORT, minimize the need for intravenous therapy and hospitalization, and reduce healthcare costs. Ondansetron should be considered in situations where vomiting hinders ORT, but a larger randomized, placebo-controlled trial is necessary before the medication can be routinely recommended for the treatment of gastroenteritis-related vomiting in children.

Page last updated: 2007-06-01

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