A randomized, double-blind comparison of licorice versus sugar-water gargle for prevention of postoperative sore throat and postextubation coughing

Kurt Ruetzler, Michael Fleck, Sabine Nabecker, Kristina Pinter, Gordian Landskron, Andrea Lassnigg, Jing You, Daniel I Sessler
Anesthesia and Analgesia 2013, 117 (3): 614-21

BACKGROUND: One small study suggests that gargling with licorice before induction of anesthesia reduces the risk of postoperative sore throat. Double-lumen tubes are large and thus especially likely to provoke sore throats. We therefore tested the hypothesis that preoperative gargling with licorice solution prevents postoperative sore throat and postextubation coughing in patients intubated with double-lumen tubes.

METHODS: We enrolled 236 patients having elective thoracic surgery who required intubation with a double-lumen endotracheal tube. Patients were randomly assigned to gargle 5 minutes before induction of anesthesia for 1 minute with: (1) Extractum Liquiritiae Fluidum (licorice 0.5 g); or (2) Sirupus Simplex (sugar 5 g); each diluted in 30 mL water. Sore throat and postextubation coughing were evaluated 30 minutes, 90 minutes, and 4 hours after arrival in the postanesthesia care unit, and the first postoperative morning using an 11-point Likert scale by an investigator blinded to treatment.

RESULTS: The incidence of postoperative sore throat was significantly reduced in patients who gargled with licorice rather than sugar-water: 19% and 36% at 30 minutes, 10% and 35% at 1.5 hours, and 21% and 45% at 4 hours, respectively. The corresponding estimated treatment effects (relative risks) were 0.54 (95% CI, 0.30-0.99, licorice versus sugar-water; P = 0.005), 0.31 (0.14-0.68) (P < 0.001), and 0.48 (0.28-0.83) (P < 0.001).

CONCLUSION: Licorice gargling halved the incidence of sore throat. Preinduction gargling with licorice appears to be a simple way to prevent a common and bothersome complication.

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