Background: Diphenhydramine and its theoclate salt dimenhydrinate are traditional antiemetics still in use. However, so far the quantitative effect of dimenhydrinate in the prophylaxis of postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV) has not been evaluated systematically.
Methods: Results from randomized controlled trials investigating the efficacy of dimenhydrinate vs. a control to prevent PONV were included in a meta-analysis. Studies were systematically searched through MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Cochrane-Library, manually screening of reference lists of matching review articles and current issues of locally available peer-reviewed anesthesia journals, up to June 2001. The numbers of patients with complete absence of PONV within 6 h and within 48 h after surgery were extracted as the main end point. Pooled relative benefits (RB) and numbers-needed-to-treat (NNT) with their corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated using a random effects model. This quantitative systematic review was performed following the recommendations of the QUORUM statement.
In all, 18 trials with 3045 patients were included in the analysis: 1658 patients received a placebo (control) and 1387 patients received dimenhydrinate.
Results: The RB to stay completely free of PONV was 1.2 (95% CI: 1.1–1.4) for the early period (NNT = 8; 95% CI: 5–25) and 1.5 (1.3–1.8) for the overall investigated period (NNT = 5; 95% CI: 3–9).
Conclusion: Dimenhydrinate is a traditional and inexpensive antiemetic with an efficacy that might be considered as clinically relevant. Although in use for a long time, the dose–response, precise estimation of side-effects, optimal time of administration and the benefit of repetitive doses still remain unclear.