Is Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting Hereditary?

New Study Identifies Patients More Susceptible to Complication After Surgery

Chicago — (June 22, 2011) 

There are several anesthetic complications that may have a hereditary background, including postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV). Past observations have shown PONV to occur in blood relatives as far back as two to three generations. A new study from the July issue of Anesthesiology analyzed whether patients who experience PONV have a genetic predisposition for the side effect.

To determine whether PONV is inherited, researchers from Penn State College of Medicine pooled DNA samples from 122 patients with severe PONV. Findings identified 41 genetic targets (called single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs) in these patients that might have caused predisposition to PONV. Further analyses singled out at least one SNP that was common to the severe PONV group.

“We hope identification of the SNP will help better predict which patients are more susceptible to PONV and enable anesthesiologists to take appropriate precautions before those patients receive anesthesia,” said lead study author Piotr K. Janicki, M.D., Ph.D. “The study will contribute to the development of new therapeutic strategies to minimize the level of PONV patients experience.”

While past studies have confirmed that female gender, use of volatile anesthetics, previous history of PONV or motion sickness, and the use of intra- or postoperative opioid drugs (such as morphine or codeine) are contributing factors to PONV, this study was one of the first to evaluate the genetic makeup of individuals who suffer from the complication. The study will be particularly useful in developing potential preoperative testing for patients to determine their individual PONV risk.

For more information on the study, visit the Anesthesiology website at


Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research and scientific society with more than 52,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring physician anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of patients before, during and after surgery to provide the highest quality and safest care every patient deserves.

For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at To learn more about the role physician anesthesiologists play in ensuring patient safety, visit Join the ANESTHESIOLOGYTM 2014 social conversation today. Like ASA on Facebook, follow ASALifeline on Twitter and use the hashtag #ANES2014.



American Society of Anesthesiologists