Faculty Advisor

Dwayne Accardo, DNP, APRN, CRNA

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 7-9-2021


Purpose/Background: Postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV) is a frequent complaint in the postoperative period, which can delay discharge, result in readmission, and increase cost for patients and facilities. Inducing paralysis is common in anesthesia, as is utilizing the drugs neostigmine and sugammadex as reversal agents for non-depolarizing neuromuscular blockers. Many studies are available that compare these two drugs to determine if neostigmine increases the risk of PONV over sugammadex. Sugammadex has a more favorable pharmacologic profile and may improve patient outcomes by reducing PONV.

Methods: This review included screening a total of 39 studies and peer-reviewed articles that looked at patients undergoing general anesthesia who received non-depolarizing neuromuscular blockers requiring either neostigmine or sugammadex for reversal, along with their respective PONV rates. 8 articles were included, while 31 articles were removed based on our exclusion criteria. These were published between 2014 and 2020 exclusively. The key words used were “neostigmine”, “sugammadex”, “PONV”, along with combinations “paralytic reversal agents and PONV”. This search was performed on the scholarly database MEDLINE. The data items were PONV rates in neostigmine group, PONV rates in sugammadex group, incidence of postoperative analgesic consumption in neostigmine group, and incidence of postoperative analgesic consumption in sugammadex group.

Results: Despite numerical differences being noted in the incidence of PONV with sugammadex over reversal with neostigmine, there did not appear to be any statistically significant data in the multiple peer-reviewed trials included in our review, for not one of the 8 studies concluded that there was a higher incidence of PONV in one drug or the other of an y clinical relevance. Although the side-effect profile tended to be better in the sugammadex group than neostigmine in areas other than PONV, there was not sufficient evidence to conclude that one drug was superior to the other in causing a direct reduction of PONV. Implications for Nursing Practice: There were variable but slight differences noted between both drug groups in PONV rates, but it remained that none of the studies determined it was statically significant or clinically conclusive. This review did, however, note other advantages to sugammadex over neostigmine, including its pharmacologic profile of more efficiently reversing non-depolarizing neuromuscular blocking drugs and its more favorable pharmacokinetics. This lack of statistically significant evidence found within these studies consequentially does not support pharmacologic decision-making of one drug in favor of the other for reducing PONV; therefore, PONV alone is not a sufficient rationale for a provider to justify using one reversal over another at the current time until further research proves otherwise.