A hiccup is a reflex movement with diffusely distributed afferents and efferents in the thorax; its functional relevance is controversial. In its physiological form, it is mostly a minor complaint that stops spontaneously and rarely leads to medical consultation. However, prolonged agonizing hiccups represent serious deterioration of quality of life. Chronic hiccups by definition last for more than 48 h, with gastroesophageal reflux being the frequent underlying disease. Various other causes affect multiple organ systems, some with serious underlying diseases. A hiccup may be the only symptom at the first manifestation of some neurological disorders. In neuroimaging a lesion of the medulla oblongata is often seen. A NMO and an ischemic stroke with Wallenberg syndrome are 2 frequently underlying neurological diseases, but other inflammatory and vascular diseases and tumors of the central nervous system may be present. No optimal evidencebased recommendations for diagnosis and management of chronic hiccups are available. The search for the underlying disease often requires an interdisciplinary approach by internists, neurologists, and otolaryngologists. Symptomatic treatment may be necessary even before diagnosis. Persistent hiccups, a common problem in oncological palliative care, are often challenging. Proton pump inhibitor or prokinetics are used for treating underlying gastroesophageal reflux and baclofen with or without gabapentin in other cases. Anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and calcium channel blockers represent other alternative treatment possibilities. In therapy-refractory cases, invasive procedures such as the selective phrenic nerve block are available. More studies are needed to help deal with the diagnostic and therapeutic challenge that hiccups present for neurologists.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)