Objective: Cyclic vomiting syndrome is well recognized in children yet has poorly defined pathogenesis and treatment. Cyclic vomiting syndrome is occasionally diagnosed in older subjects, but little attempt has been made to determine if such cases represent a unique disorder.
Methods: We reviewed clinical data from 39 patients aged 1.8-75 yr with cyclic vomiting syndrome meeting published criteria for diagnosis. Clinical characteristics were compared between subjects with symptom onset in childhood (<12 yr, n = 18) and subjects with onset at an older age (> or =12 yr, n = 21; mean age at onset 34.8+/-3.8 yr).
Results: All patients had stereotypical episodes of vomiting separated by varying symptom-free intervals. The prevalence rates of prodromal symptoms, triggering events, alleviants, associated symptoms including abdominal pain and diarrhea, and past or family history of migraine were similar in the children and older subjects with the syndrome (p > 0.3 for each). Delay in diagnosis was greater in the older subset (3.1+/-0.8 yr vs 7.9+/-3.1 yr, p < 0.05). Interepisode intervals and total number of hospitalizations did not differ significantly between younger and older patients, but duration of episodes was significantly longer in the older group (2.0+/-0.5 days vs 3.8+/-0.4 days, p < 0.01). When subjects were further substratified by age of illness onset, duration of episodes progressively increased from infant/toddlers (1.8+/-0.4 days) through childhood (2.3+/-0.5 days) and adolescence (2.9+/-1.0 days) and into adulthood (3.9+/-0.5; p < 0.05 across groups). Episode duration did not lengthen further in subgroups >20 yr of age.
Conclusions: Many characteristics of cyclic vomiting syndrome are similar irrespective of age at disorder onset, suggesting a uniform pathogenesis. Duration of episodes increases with age to age 20 yr. Increased awareness of the condition and a high index of suspicion may help decrease delay in diagnosis after symptom onset.