Effects of propofol on ipecacuanha-induced nausea and vomiting

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The purpose of this study was to evaluate if propofol has 5-HT3 antagonistic effects. Ipecacuanha is known to release serotonin (5-HT) in the gastrointestinal tract and therefore ipecacuanha syrup was used to induce nausea and vomiting. The 5-HT3 antagonist ondansetron was used as a control substance.


Ten healthy male volunteers (20-37 years) were studied on three occasions and were randomly allocated to receive a concomitant infusion of propofol(initial bolus 0.1 mg kg-1 then 1 mg kg-1h-1), ondansetron (initial bolus 0.11 mg kg-1 then 14 μg kg-1 h-1) and placebo on either occasion. The infusions started 30 min before oral ingestion of 30 ml of ipecacuanha and continued until 150 min after the intake. The number of retchings was recorded and the intensity of nausea was estimated by the subjects on a visual analog scale.


During the first 150 min after ingestion of ipecacuanha there were no retchings during the ondansetron infusion (P=0.01 vs placebo,P=0.02 vs propofol) and significantly fewer retchings during propofol infusion compared to placebo (P<0.02). There was no nausea during the ondansetron infusion (P<0.01 vs placebo and propofol) but the volunteers experienced nausea both during the placebo and propofol infusion (NS).


This study in volunteers has shown that propofol reduces the intensity of retching after oral intake of ipecacuanha syrup. As ipecacuanha releases 5-hydroxytryptamine, it can be concluded that propofol may have a weak 5-HT3 antagonistic effect.

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