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Radiotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: Prophylaxis and treatment

Petra Feyer, MD
Karin Jordan, MD
Section Editors
Paul J Hesketh, MD
Steven E Schild, MD
Deputy Editor
Michael E Ross, MD


Nausea and vomiting caused by radiation therapy (RT) are generally less severe than that caused by chemotherapy. However, these side effects are clinically important and can be distressing for patients. Furthermore, RT-induced nausea and vomiting (RINV) can cause patients to delay or refuse further treatment.

The incidence, classification of risk, and management of RINV are discussed here. The approach to chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting are discussed separately. (See "Prevention and treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in adults".)


The pathophysiology of RT-induced nausea and vomiting (RINV) is incompletely understood but is thought to be similar to that caused by chemotherapy. Progress in understanding the pathophysiology of chemotherapy-induced emesis led to the development of agents that form the basis for treatment of RINV. (See "Pathophysiology and prediction of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting".)


Two prospective observational studies provide information on the frequency of RT-induced nausea and vomiting (RINV) and the extent to which this problem is treated:

The Italian Group for Antiemetic Research in Radiotherapy (IGARR) analyzed the incidence of RINV in 1020 patients receiving various kinds of RT [1]. Overall, nausea and/or vomiting was reported by 28 percent. The median time to the first episode of vomiting was three days. Antiemetic drugs were administered to 17 percent of the patients, including 12 percent treated prophylactically and 5 percent given rescue therapy.


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Jul 22, 2015.
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