Prediction of Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting by Point-of-Care Gastric Ultrasound: Can We Improve Complications and Length of Stay in Emergency Surgery?

A Cohort Study

Valerio Cozza; Lorenzo Barberis; Gaia Altieri; Mario Donatelli; Gabriele Sganga; Antonio La Greca


BMC Anesthesiol. 2021;21(211) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Background: Postoperative nausea and vomiting and postoperative ileus are common after major digestive surgery and represent one of the significant problems in Acute Care Surgery.

The delivery model of emergency surgery needs to be improved in order to foster a patient-centered care.

The multimodal approach suggested by Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS®) Guidelines is gaining widespread acceptance but is difficult to apply to emergency surgery.

Ultrasound examination of the gastric antrum allows a reliable assessment of gastric contents and volume and might help contribute to improve perioperative care in the emergency setting.

Methods: Gastric ultrasound examinations were performed preoperatively and postoperatively on forty-one patients undergoing emergency abdominal surgery. Gastric cross-sectional area (CSA) was measured, in order to estimate the gastric volume. The data obtained were used to evaluate a possible relationship between delayed gastric emptying and postoperative adverse event.

Results: Gastric antrum detection rate varied from 31.8% in open up to 78.9% in laparoscopic surgeries (p = 0.003). Six patients experienced adverse outcomes, had an antiemetic therapy administered and/or a nasogastric tube inserted. Mean CSA was significantly higher in this group (12.95 cm2 vs 6.12 cm2; p = 0.040).

Conclusions: Sensitivity of gastric ultrasound varies depending on surgical technique. A dilated gastric antrum is significantly related to postoperative adverse outcomes and a careful ultrasound follow-up might help tailor postoperative nutrition and antiemetic therapy. In patients who experienced adverse events, antral CSA showed an average increase of more than 50% over a period of 72 h after surgery. A relative measure could be used to predict the risk of postoperative ileus. Overall, gastric ultrasound seems to be a promising diagnostic tool and a useful way to integrate ERAS® protocol in emergency abdominal surgery.