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What Is Ondansetron Used For?

Ondansetron for Radiation Nausea and Vomiting

Radiation is another common cause of nausea and vomiting. Certain types of radiation are more likely to cause nausea and vomiting than others. There are several reasons why radiation causes nausea or vomiting, one of which is increased serotonin. In response to radiation, the body makes more serotonin than usual, causing nausea or vomiting.
Ondansetron can be used along with other medications to help prevent nausea and vomiting due to radiation. Ondansetron is better at preventing vomiting ("throwing up") than preventing nausea ("being sick to your stomach"). Ondansetron is not licensed to treat nausea or vomiting once it starts; it is licensed to prevent these problems. It is easier to prevent nausea and vomiting than it is to treat it once it starts.
Ondansetron is licensed for use with certain types of radiation:
  • Total body irradiation
  • Single high-dose fraction radiation to the abdomen (stomach area)
  • Daily fractionated radiotherapy to the abdomen.

Ondansetron for Nausea and Vomiting After Surgery

Surgery is another possible cause of nausea and vomiting. However, not all types of surgery are likely to cause nausea and vomiting. Surgeries involving the abdomen (stomach area), eye, ears, nose, and throat are most likely to cause nausea or vomiting. Certain people are at higher risk for postoperative nausea and vomiting, including the following people:
  • Women
  • People who get motion sickness
  • People who have had nausea or vomiting after surgery in the past
  • People who do not smoke
  • People who will use certain morphine-like medications ("opioids") after surgery.
Your healthcare provider will take all of these factors into consideration when deciding if you will need medication to prevent nausea and vomiting.
One of the causes of postoperative nausea and vomiting is the body's increased production of serotonin. Ondansetron works by blocking serotonin at certain receptors in the body. Ondansetron is given before surgery to help prevent nausea and vomiting from starting. Ondansetron is not approved to treat nausea and vomiting after it starts, and it is much harder to treat nausea or vomiting than to prevent it from happening in the first place.
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