Cyclic Vomiting ED Protocol

Recently, I was reading information from the Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome Association (Winter 2020 issue). On page 12, there is a pretty good protocol for emergency department treatment with the caveat that this “represents a sample template and should be tailored based on individual needs.” In addition, this protocol was derived from an article by Venkatesan et al (Neurogastroenterology and Motility 2019; S2. Full text: Guidelines on management of cyclic vomiting syndrome in adults by the American Neurogastroenterology and Motility Society and the Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome Association)

Key points from guidelines article:

  • “The committee strongly recommends that adults with moderate‐to‐severe CVS receive a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) such as amitriptyline, as a first‐line prophylactic medication. “
  • Topiramate, Aprepitant, “Zonisamide or levetiracetam and mitochondrial supplements (Coenzyme Q10, L‐carnitine, and riboflavin) are conditionally recommended as alternate prophylactic medications, either alone or concurrently with other prophylactic medications.”
  • “For acute attacks, the committee conditionally recommends using serotonin antagonists such as ondansetron, and/or triptans such as sumatriptan or newer agents such as aprepitant (NK1 receptor antagonist) to abort symptoms.”
  • Evidence, dosing regimens, and algorithms are detailed in article

Sample ED CVS Protocol (for Adults):

____[name]____________ has an established diagnosis of Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome
Operational definition
* A recurring pattern of discrete episodes of severe vomiting, accompanied by profound nausea and/or severe abdominal pain
* Patient returns to usual health status between episodes (may have inter‐episodic nausea and or dyspepsia)
* In some patients, CVS episodes resemble a migraine attack
* Patients may be restless, anxious, and distressed
* Patients are not customarily dehydrated until late in the episode
Therapeutic goal
Rapid recognition and intervention may decrease severity of the attack and promote prompt resolution of symptoms
ED management
1. Clinical assessment: Pulse/Temp/BP/Weight, consciousness, and hydration
2. Laboratories/evaluation:
CBC, urea, creatinine, LFT’s, lipase, glucose, and electrolytes
Urine analysis
Diagnostic imaging at discretion of attending physician
1. Intravenous fluids
a. IV saline bolus if clinically dehydrated
b. IV D5NS at 100%‐150% maintenance (suggested rate is 200 cc/h for a 70 kg adult.)
2. For vomiting and nausea
a. IV ondansetron 8 mg IV × 1—may repeat q 4‐6 h if ondansetron is ineffective
b. Consider diphenhydramine 50 mg IV and metoclopramide 10 mg IV
c. Consider IV fosaprepitant 150 mg if available
3. For sedation
a. IV lorazepam 1‐2 mg and b. IV diphenhydramine 50 mg for additional sedation
4. For migraine‐like presentation
a. Sumatriptan nasal 20 mg (head forward technique) or
b. Sumatriptan subcutaneous injection 6 mg/0.5 mL
5. For pain
a. IV ketorolac 30 mg if > 60 minutes from onset; may repeat 15 mg q 6 h x 2 (maximum 60 mg/d)
b. Opioids may be considered as part of an ongoing treatment plan in refractory patientsa
1. Treatment failure—intensify treatment as indicated above or admit patient
2. Positive treatment response—discharge
a. Continue ondansetron (soluble tablets) q 6‐8 h × 24‐48 h if initially effective
b. Continue lorazepam × 24‐48 h if initially effective
c. Continue NSAIDs for pain as needed

My take: This reference is very useful. The pediatric NASPGHAN guidelines (BUK Li et al. JPGN 2008; 47:379–393. Full text: North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition Consensus Statement on the Diagnosis and Management of Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome) probably need to be updated, especially as there are newer agents available (eg. aprepitant, fosaprepitant).

Related blog posts:


Disclaimer: This blog, gutsandgrowth, assumes no responsibility for any use or operation of any method, product, instruction, concept or idea contained in the material herein or for any injury or damage to persons or property (whether products liability, negligence or otherwise) resulting from such use or operation. These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  Because of rapid advances in the medical sciences, the gutsandgrowth blog cautions that independent verification should be made of diagnosis and drug dosages. The reader is solely responsible for the conduct of any suggested test or procedure.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition