A recent study (SE Tarbell et al J Pediatr 2020 225: 109-108. Children with Functional Nausea—Comorbidities outside the Gastrointestinal Tract) highlights the frequent comorbidities in children with functional nausea. The authors have combined prospective and retrospective elements with specific questionnaires and review of the electronic medical records.
- High rates of comorbidities were noted: Abdominal pain 94%, Headache 83%, Orthostatic Intolerance 81%, Fatigue 75%, Disturbed sleep 71%, Anxiety 59%, and Constipation 57%. Other frequent findings included vomiting in 51%, Allergies 54%, , Joint Pain 46%, Hypermobility in 37%.
- 69.5% of subjects missed more than 10 days of school due to their symptoms.
- There was extensive testing in this cohort (n=63), including 96 endoscopies, and 199 radiologic tests. In addition, 4 patients had cholecystectomies.
- Among 64 EGDs, 28 were considered abnormal. The authors claim that 6 had specific findings: H pylori (n=2), polyps (n=2), celiac disease (n=1), and lactase deficiency (n=1).
- It is likely that H pylori and celiac disease could have been identified/suspected by non-invasive testing; these two findings may make a diagnosis of functional nausea more tricky.
- Lactase deficiency could be considered a normal finding.
- The authors state that 32 of 59 AXRs had “moderate to severe constipation” based on stool burden
Overall, this article makes some useful points about the high rate of comorbidities with functional nausea but I disagree with some of the other discussion points.
The authors claim that “negative tests can reassure families of the absence of a more serious underlying condition.” This assertion has been disputed in other studies. In one study (A Rolfe et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(6):407-416 Full text: Reassurance After Diagnostic Testing With a Low Pretest Probability of Serious Disease), the authors conclude that ‘diagnostic tests for symptoms with a low risk of serious illness do little to reassure patients, decrease their anxiety, or resolve their symptoms, although the tests may reduce further primary care visits.’
The authors also have a permissive attitude regarding AXRs saying “a radiograph may validate a diagnosis of constipation.” Yet the preponderance of evidence indicates that AXRs are not needed or recommended for the diagnosis of constipation. The juxtaposition of this statement on page 107 of this issue with the next article on page 109 which details a quality improvement process of reducing abdominal radiographs to diagnose constipation in the ED is interesting. The ED physicians in the next article are trying to adhere to evidence-based guidelines; in this article, the authors correctly note that evidence “has shown abdominal radiographs to be unreliable in establishing an association between clinical symptoms of constipation and fecal load on abdominal radiographs.”
My take: Tarbell et al show that in patients with functional nausea, nausea is the tip of the symptom iceberg. Generally, radiographic and endoscopic diagnostic studies have very low yield and should be discouraged.
- What’s Wrong with Ordering an AXR in the ED
- NASPGHAN Postgraduate Course (Part 5 2017): Constipation, POTS
- Updated Pediatric Expert Constipation Guidelines | gutsandgrowth. Link: NASPGHAN Guidelines on Constipation (2014)
- Dreaded Nausea (2017)
- Myth or Fact: Joint Hypermobility is Related to Pediatric Functional Abdominal Pain & Dr. Roy Link
- Brave New World: Psychotropic Manipulation & Pediatric …
- Understanding Idiopathic Nausea | gutsandgrowth
- NEJM: Functional Dyspepsia | gutsandgrowth
- Dreaded Nausea
- Does buspirone help functional dyspepsia? | gutsandgrowth
- A 6-Year Study of Amitriptyline, Escitalopram, and Functional
- Anxiety and Functional Abdominal Pain | gutsandgrowth
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Childhood Abdominal Pain