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Ann Intern Med. 1997 May 1;126(9):704-7.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease presenting with intractable nausea.

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  • 1Division of Gastroenterology, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Pennsylvania State University, Hershey 17033, USA.



Typical symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease are heartburn and regurgitation. A subset of patients present with atypical symptoms, such as chest pain, cough, wheezing, and hoarseness.


To review the clinical presentation and treatment of patients who presented with nausea as the primary symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease.


Case series.


Outpatient department of a university hospital.


10 outpatients who had chronic, intractable nausea and had not responded to empirical therapies.


Patients were evaluated by esophagogastroduodenoscopy, 24-hour esophageal pH studies, gastric-emptying tests, electrogastrography, or a Bernstein test.


Abnormal acid reflux was found to be the cause of intractable nausea in all 10 patients. In 5 of the 10 patients, esophagitis was documented by esophagogastroduodenoscopy. Six patients had abnormal results on the 24-hour esophageal pH study. In these 6 patients, 32 of 33 episodes of nausea were accompanied by an episode of acid reflux. One patient had positive results on the Bernstein test. Nausea resolved after treatment with omeprazole in 7 patients, after treatment with cisapride or ranitidine in 2 patients, and after Nissen fundoplication in 1 patient.


Intractable nausea is an atypical symptom that can occur in a subset of patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease. A 24-hour esophageal pH study should be considered in patients who have unexplained nausea but normal findings on esophagogastroduodenoscopy, a gastric-emptying test, and electrogastrography. Nausea related to gastroesophageal reflux disease resolves or is markedly reduced with proton-pump inhibitors or promotility drugs.

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