A simple stick of chewing gum could be the cure for debilitating post-operative nausea and two New Zealand hospitals are
part of an international trial to see if gum is the answer.
About a third of surgical patients, suffer from severe nausea, retching and vomiting following an operation and it seems
women have these symptoms more than men. However early trials suggest a simple and cheap stick of peppermint gum chewed
for about 10 minutes is more effective than anti-nausea drugs during recovery.
A small “Chewy Trial” was initially run at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and it found that chewing gum could overcome
three out of four cases of nausea. Now the trial is being run internationally in more than 30 hospitals including
Auckland City and North Shore.
Dr Robyn Billing is the New Zealand lead researcher for the anaesthetist-led larger Chewy Trial which is endorsed and
funded by the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA). She says there are a lot of pluses if they
can prove the gum is truly effective over a large cohort of patients. “We’re exploring chewing gum as an alternative
treatment that is readily available, cheap, and easy to administer and free of side effects unlike pharmaceuticals,” she
More than 300 million people have surgery worldwide suggesting tens of millions of patients suffer postoperative nausea
and vomiting (PONV) – it is the leading cause of unplanned admission of day surgery patients and contributes
significantly to patient discomfort and distress.
Dr Billing says chewing gum to treat this world-wide problem would be especially beneficial in less wealthy countries,
like Pacific nations where access to drugs is more limited.
National Anaesthesia Day – October 16
Understanding what you can do to prepare for an operation is the focus of ANZCA National Anaesthesia Day
being held on Wednesday, October 16. The public will get a chance to talk to anaesthetists and other staff in hospitals
around the country about what they can do to be more prepared for anaesthesia. There will be interactive displays most
major public hospitals and some private hospitals on October 16, which marks the anniversary of the day in 1846 when
ether anaesthetic was first demonstrated publicly in Boston.
The Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) is the professional organisation for about 6400
specialist anaesthetists (fellows) and 1500 anaesthetists in training (trainees). One of Australasia's largest
specialist medical colleges, ANZCA is responsible for the training, examination and specialist accreditation of
anaesthetists and pain medicine specialists and for the standards of clinical practice in Australia and New Zealand.