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What Is an Ondansetron Injection?

By C. K. Lanz
Updated May 17, 2024
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An ondansetron injection is given primarily to chemotherapy and radiation patients to relieve nausea and vomiting. It is a serotonin receptor antagonist that is thought to affect the central and peripheral nerves, reducing the reflex to vomit by blocking serotonin. Post-operative patients may also be given the injection to prevent vomiting. The drug has several off-label and investigational uses, including as a treatment for schizophrenia, irritable bowel syndrome, and alcoholism in early-onset alcoholics. In the United States, an ondansetron injection is marketed under the brand name Zofran®.

The most common use of an ondansetron injection is to prevent and treat nausea and vomiting that often result from chemotherapy and radiation in cancer patients. It is usually administered approximately 30 minutes before chemotherapy or radiation begins. If necessary, additional doses can be given four and eight hours after the initial dose.

If surgery causes nausea and vomiting, an ondansetron injection is often administered right after the procedure. In some cases, the injection is preventative and given just prior to anesthesia. Not only does preventing vomiting make patients more comfortable, but it can help ensure proper weight, nutrition absorption, and hydration during recovery.

A trained health care provider, such as a nurse, administers an ondansetron injection. It is given via a needle inserted into a patient’s vein. A patient normally receives a few ondansetron injections before her doctor will switch her to an oral medication.

This medication has other less common uses. It is used to help relieve alcohol cravings, particularly in early-onset alcoholism. Ondansteron may also be a useful treatment for the side effects experienced during the detoxification process because it soothes nausea and anxiety. Recent evidence suggests that the effectiveness of ondansteron as a treatment for alcoholism is affected by an individual’s genetic makeup.

There is also the possibility that ondansteron may be a potential treatment for schizophrenia and antipsychotic-induced tardive dyskinesia in schizophrenics. As an ondansetron injection blocks a receptor in the enteric nervous system, it reduces colon contractions and can thus help relieve irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea. It may also be effective at reducing post-surgical and postanesthetic shivering.

Most patients generally tolerate an ondansetron injection well. Common side effects include headache, fever, and diarrhea or constipation. Some patients may experience stomach cramps, drowsiness, and itching. In rare cases, chest tightness, troubled breathing, and a skin rash or hives may occur. Patients who experience pain or swelling in the stomach area should contact their doctors immediately.

Prior to receiving an ondansetron injection, patients should be straightforward with their doctors about any known drug allergies they have. In addition, patients should reveal any other medications, vitamins, and supplements they are taking to avoid any drug interactions with the medication. Finally, a doctor or medical professional may be concerned about current or previous liver disease and whether the patient is pregnant or plans to conceive while being treated.

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