Hiccups in patients with cancer: a multi-site, single-institution study of etiology, severity, complications, interventions, and outcomes

BMC Cancer. 2022 Jun 15;22(1):659. doi: 10.1186/s12885-022-09760-5.


Background: To our knowledge, previous studies have not investigated hiccups in patients with cancer with detailed patient-level data with the goal of capturing a broad spectrum of hiccup symptomatology.

Methods: This multi-site, single institution study examined consecutive medical records to better understand hiccups in patients with cancer.

Results: A total of 320 patients are the focus of this report. The median age of patients when hiccups were first reported in the medical record was 63 years (range: 21, 97 years) with 284 (89%) men and 36 (11%) women. The most common diagnose was gastrointestinal cancer. Hiccups most frequently occurred daily, as seen in 194 patients (62%), and the most common duration was less than 1 week, as seen in 146 patients (47%). However, nine patients had had daily hiccups for greater than 6 weeks, and 5 had symptoms for years. Cited etiology was non-chemotherapy medications in 36 (11%) and cancer chemotherapy in 19 (6%). Complications occurred in approximately a third and included insomnia in 51 patients (16%); hospitalization or emergency department visit in 34 (11%); and musculoskeletal pain in 23 (7%). Baclofen was the single most prescribed agent for hiccup palliation, but 100 patients received more than one medication. Medical procedures, which included acupuncture, paracentesis, or phrenic nerve block, were performed in 5 patients. In 234 patients (73%), the medical record documented hiccup cessation.

Conclusions: Hiccups appear to be highly problematic in a small subset of patients with cancer with no well-defined palliative approaches.

Keywords: Complications; Hiccups; Morbidity; Palliation.

MeSH terms

  • Baclofen / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Hiccup* / complications
  • Hiccup* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Palliative Care
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders* / complications


  • Baclofen