Background Postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV) is a common complication after pediatric strabismus surgery. Steroids and ondansetron (a 5-HT3 antagonist) can effectively reduce nausea, vomiting, and pain and thus might be useful agents for the prevention of PONV in pediatric patients. The aim of this study was to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to evaluate the prophylactic effects of dexamethasone and ondansetron on PONV after strabismus surgery in pediatric patients. Methods A comprehensive literature search was conducted to identify RCTs that investigated the efficacy and safety of intravenous dexamethasone or ondansetron on PONV in pediatric strabismus surgical patients. The primary outcome was the incidence of PONV during the initial 24 postoperative hours. The secondary outcomes were number of patients requiring a rescue antiemetic and complications. Results We included 13 RCTs that evaluated 2006 patients. In the two studies that compared dexamethasone and placebo treatments, POV occurred in 34.3% (23/67) of the patients in the dexamethasone group and in 68.2% (45/66) of the patients in the placebo group. The difference between the two groups was significant (RR 0.50; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.34-0.72). Similarly, seven studies that compared ondansetron and a placebo identified a relatively lower incidence of PONV in the ondansetron group (103/277, 37.2%) than in the placebo group (177/270, 65.6%). The difference between the two groups was also significant (RR 0.58; 95% CI 0.43-0.79). The combination of dexamethasone and ondansetron was significantly more effective at reducing the incidence of POV than dexamethasone or ondansetron alone. In all included RCTs, experimental drug-related complications, such as facial flushing and headache, were limited. Conclusions Surgeons and anesthesiologists are recommended to administer the combination of dexamethasone and ondansetron to pediatric patients undergoing strabismus surgery.
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