Diagnosis and Management of Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome: A Critical Review

Am J Gastroenterol. 2023 Jul 1;118(7):1157-1167. doi: 10.14309/ajg.0000000000002216. Epub 2023 Feb 15.


Cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS) is a chronic disorder of gut-brain interaction characterized by recurrent disabling episodes of nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. CVS affects both children and adults with a prevalence of approximately 2% in the United States. CVS is more common in female individuals and affects all races. The pathophysiology of CVS is unknown and a combination of genetic, environmental, autonomic, and neurohormonal factors is believed to play a role. CVS is also closely associated with migraine headaches and likely have a shared pathophysiology. The diagnosis of CVS is based on the Rome criteria, and minimal recommended testing includes an upper endoscopy and imaging studies of the abdomen. CVS is frequently associated with anxiety, depression, and autonomic dysfunction. Patients with CVS commonly use cannabis therapeutically for symptom relief. By contrast, cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome is believed to be a subset of CVS with chronic heavy cannabis use leading to hyperemesis. Due to the recalcitrant nature of the illness, patients often visit the emergency department and are hospitalized for acute CVS flares. Guidelines on the management of CVS recommend a biopsychosocial approach. Prophylactic therapy consists of tricyclic antidepressants (amitriptyline), antiepileptics (topiramate), and aprepitant in refractory patients. Abortive therapy consists of triptans, antiemetics (ondansetron), and sedation. Treatment of comorbid conditions is extremely important to improve overall patient outcomes. CVS has a significant negative impact on patients, families, and the healthcare system, and future research to understand its pathophysiology and develop targeted therapies is needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antiemetics* / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Migraine Disorders*
  • Nausea / diagnosis
  • Nausea / etiology
  • Nausea / therapy
  • Vomiting / diagnosis
  • Vomiting / etiology
  • Vomiting / therapy


  • Antiemetics

Supplementary concepts

  • Familial cyclic vomiting syndrome