Cardiac Vagal Regulation Is Impeded in Children With Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome

Am J Gastroenterol. 2023 Jul 1;118(7):1268-1275. doi: 10.14309/ajg.0000000000002207. Epub 2023 Jan 30.


Introduction: The pathophysiology underlying cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS) remains undefined. Scant data and distinct clinical features point to altered autonomic nervous system function. Autonomic signaling can be noninvasively assessed through cardiac indices of parasympathetic vagal regulation, which is reduced in children with disorders of gut-brain interaction. We aimed to examine dynamic cardiac vagal regulation in children with CVS compared with that in healthy controls (HC).

Methods: A total of 31 children with CVS evaluated in a tertiary care CVS center and 66 HC (ages 8-18 years) underwent cardiac autonomic function assessment. Electrocardiogram recordings were conducted during 3-minute sit/stand/sit posture challenges. The electrocardiogram-derived variables heart period, respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), and vagal efficiency (VE) were analyzed using linear regression and mixed-effects modeling.

Results: After exclusion of medication confounders, 23 patients with CVS were included in analyses. Both groups were comparable in age, gender, and body mass index. Compared with HC, children with CVS had shorter heart period (standardized mean difference range: 1.15-1.22, all P values < 0.05) and lower RSA (SMD range: 0.66-0.88, all P values < 0.05). Patients with CVS had significantly lower VE during the entire course of posture shifts, compared with HC ( B = -19.87, SE = 6.95, t = -2.86, P = 0.005, SMD = 0.76).

Discussion: Children with CVS have suboptimal parasympathetic autonomic regulation compared with HC, indexed by reduced RSA and VE, even during their interepisodic well phase. Abnormal vagal modulation may underlie CVS pathophysiology, comorbidities, and triggers. Assessing VE during posture stressors could inform therapeutic interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arrhythmia, Sinus
  • Autonomic Nervous System
  • Child
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Heart*
  • Humans
  • Vagus Nerve*
  • Vomiting

Supplementary concepts

  • Familial cyclic vomiting syndrome