Saturday, February 6, 2010

Intractable Hiccups

A friend reports that he met a fellow on the train the other day who can't stop hiccupping. He has suffered through a year of what physicians call "synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (SDF)"! Imagine: hiccuping for an entire year without letup. It may not be life threatening, but such a condition has to be unbelievably annoying. Attention needs to be paid and a remedy needs to be found!

Do you suppose it would be any consolation to this fellow to know that one man named Charles Osborne actually hiccupped continuously for almost 69 years?! From 1922-1990! Amazing, but, you have to admit, definitely not consoling. Apparently, in another appalling case of difficult, long-term hiccups, a young girl hiccupped nonstop for five weeks at the rate of 50 times a minute. Such cases are known as Intractable Hiccups or IH. Our poor fellow on the train definitely qualifies as one of those rare victims of IH. How horrible!

Is there any documented cure? Standing on your head, being suddenly frightened, and eating peanut butter all have their defenders, though nothing in the literature to support them as cures. However, the December 23, 1971 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine did indicate that a solution containing sugar when placed on or under the tongue may extinguish troublesome hiccups. In the worst, most persistent cases, certain drugs have been prescribed, sedatives have been recommended, and even digital rectal massage (something we all should try at least once in our lives) also has had a favorable effect. In one particularly intractable case, the victim was found to have a tumor that upon removal produced almost immediate relief from hiccups that had lasted something like three years. Not only wasn't he going to die; he no longer wanted to either. I just hope the fellow on the train is reading this. Perhaps you should speak to your physician about digital rectal massage. It has to be better than IH!

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