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Adv Pediatr. 2000;47:117-60.

Cyclic vomiting syndrome: evolution in our understanding of a brain-gut disorder.

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Ohio State University, USA.


Cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS) remains a mysterious disorder despite our increasing knowledge since its classic description by Gee in 1882. Its hallmark feature of recurrent, explosive bouts of vomiting punctuating periods of normal health causes substantial medical morbidity (50% of patients require intravenous therapy), as well as significant time lost from school (20 school absences per year) and work. Limited epidemiologic data indicate that CVS may occur more commonly than previously thought, affecting as many as 1.9% of school-aged children. Besides the relentless vomiting, the child usually has pallor (87%), lethargy (91%), anorexia (74%), nausea (72%), and abdominal pain (80%). There is evidence of clinical and physiologic overlap among CVS, abdominal migraine, and migraine headaches. We propose revised criteria for abdominal migraine that include pain as the predominant and consistent symptom, lack of abnormal screening tests, and in retrospect, either subsequent development of migraines or positive response to antimigraine medication. Besides migraines, other etiologic possibilities include mitochondrial DNA mutations, ion channelopathies, excessive hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activation, and heightened autonomic reactivity. The differential diagnosis includes idiopathic CVS (88%); gastrointestinal disorders (7%), including serious surgical disorders (e.g., malrotation); and extraintestinal disorders (5%), including serious surgical (brain stem neoplasm) and metabolic disorders (e.g., fatty acid oxidation disorder). Within the idiopathic group, there may be migraine, Sato's neuroendocrine, mitochondrial, and other subgroups. Treatment includes avoidance of triggers, prophylactic medication, supportive care, abortive medication, and family support. In the future, investigation into mitochondrial DNA mutations, ion channel defects, corticotropin-releasing factor, and serotonin and tachykinin receptor physiology and pharmacology may help discover the etiology and pathogenesis of this disorder.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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