Best Evidence Topics
  • Send this BET as an Email
  • Make a Comment on this BET

Metoclopramide versus placebo with opioid

Three Part Question

In [patients treated with opiods] is [metoclopramide better than nothing] in [reducing nausea and vomiting]?

Clinical Scenario

A 52 year old man attends the emergency department having been kicked on his right leg by a horse. He is complaining of severe pain in the leg and examination shows deformity. You make the clinical diagnosis of a fracture. You ask for an opiod to relieve his pain; the nurses insist you give metoclopramide as well. You wonder whether there is any evidence to support their assertion that metoclopramide should be given routinely with opiods.

Search Strategy

Medline 1966-01/04 using the Ovid interface.
[(exp vomiting OR exp Nausea OR vomit$.mp OR exp Vomiting, anticipatory OR emesis$.mp OR nausea$.mp) AND (exp metoclopramide OR metoclopramide$.mp) AND (randomised controlled OR exp clinical trials OR exp random allocation OR exp randomized controlled trials OR double-blind OR exp double-blind method OR exp clinical trials] LIMIT to human AND English.

Search Outcome

Altogether 405 papers were found of which one is relevant.

Relevant Paper(s)

Author, date and country Patient group Study type (level of evidence) Outcomes Key results Study Weaknesses
Talbot-Stern J & Paoloni R,
122 patients of which 63 were given metoclopramidePRCT, double blindAt 30 min. At 60 min.No significant differenceSmall study Numbers did not add up
Nausea at 30 mins and 60 minsMetoclopramide 3.2% v placebo 6.8% at 30 mins. Metoclopramide 4.8% v placebo 3.4% at 60 mins.
Vomiting at 30 mins and 60 minsMetoclopramide 0% v placebo 0% at 30 mins. Metoclopramide 0% v placebo 1.7% at 60 mins
Side effectMetoclopramide 7.9 % vs placebo 3.4%


While many studies evaluated the effects of metoclopramide postoperatively, only this study evaluated the effects in the emergency department. Because of the low incidence of nausea and vomiting in both groups of this study, it is not possible to make a specific conclusion regarding the prophylactic effect of metoclopramide in reducing opiods associated nausea and vomiting.

Editor Comment

A more up to date version of this BET topic is at BET 266 includes other papers not found on this original submission and should be reviewed as well as the above.

Clinical Bottom Line

The incidence of nausea and vomiting with opiods is very low in these groups of patients. This study did not provide evidence that prophylactic metoclopramide is effective.


  1. Talbot-Stern J, Paoloni R Prophylactic metoclopramide is unnecessary with intravenous analgesia in the ED. Am J Emerg Med 2000;18(6):653-7.