The successful use of dronabinol for failure to thrive secondary to intestinal dysmotility

Int J Surg Case Rep. 2015;11:121-123. doi: 10.1016/j.ijscr.2015.04.036. Epub 2015 May 5.


Introduction: Symptoms of severe intestinal dysmotility decrease patients' quality of life and may prevent them from sustaining adequate oral intake. Dronabinol is a synthetic cannabinoid that is labeled for use in AIDS-related anorexia and chemotherapy-associated nausea and vomiting that has additional efficacy in patients with other etiologies of nausea, vomiting, and anorexia.

Presentation of case: We present a 58-year-old female with a history of nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and inability to maintain oral intake after multiple laparotomies for ectopic pregnancy, recurrent caecal volvulus, and cholecystitis. After eight years of unsuccessful trials of medicines, dietary modifications, and a partial colectomy, she began a trial of dronabinol, which caused almost complete remission of her symptoms. When this medication was discontinued by her payer, she was unable to maintain oral intake and therefore, was admitted to the hospital for fluid resuscitation and resumption of dronabinol.

Discussion: The use of dronabinol in this patient with severe intestinal dysmotility allowed her to maintain her nutritional status orally and obviated the need for enteral or parenteral feeding. Unfortunately, it was not covered by her insurance company for this indication.

Conclusion: Dronabinol has the potential to improve quality of life for patients beyond those undergoing chemotherapy or suffering from AIDS. Lack of access to this medicine for patients with intestinal dysmotility after all other modalities have been tried can lead to morbid and expensive complications, such as inpatient admission and surgery for enteral access.

Keywords: Cannabinoids; Failure to thrive; Gastroparesis; Intestinal dysmotility.