We investigated the effectiveness of prophylactic IV ondansetron in preventing intrathecal fentanyl-induced pruritus. One-hundred-fifty ASA status I-II patients undergoing spinal anesthesia with 7-10 mg of hyperbaric bupivacaine and 25 mug of fentanyl were randomized to receive ondansetron 8 mg IV or normal saline IV before the commencement of spinal anesthesia. Evaluations were performed every 15 min in the first hour after the injection of study drugs and at 1, 2,3,4,5, and 6 h after the administration of the study drug. Statistical analysis was performed by using chi(2) tests and Student's t-test, as appropriate. The incidence of pruritus was significantly more frequent in the placebo group compared with the ondansetron group (68% versus 39%) (P = 0.001). Time to pruritus was similar in both groups (placebo group, 55 32 min versus ondansetron group, 50 31 min). Duration of pruritus was also similar in both groups (placebo group, 98 +/- 60 min versus ondansetron group, 103 +/- 58 min). Ondansetron prophylaxis significantly reduced the incidence of intrathecal fentanyl-induced pruritus in patients undergoing surgery under bupivacaine spinal anesthesia.