Expert Advice for Diagnosis and Treatment of Rumination Syndrome

Full text: M Halland et al Clinical Gastroenterol Hepatol 2018; 16: 1549-1555 provide an excellent review and practical recommendations for rumination syndrome.

The article describes the high prevalence which is ~0.8-0.9% of adults and ~5% of children.  Some populations like patients with eating disorders and fibromyalgia have even higher rates.

Other key points:

  • Long delay in diagnosis: patients “visit an average of 5 physicians over 2.7 to 4.9 years before being diagnosed correctly”
  • The diagnosis is a clinical based on Rome IV criteria, though most patients undergo an esophagogastroduodenoscopy or barium study to rule out other disorders
  • Best Practice Advice 1: Clinicians strongly should consider rumination syndrome in patients who report consistent postprandial regurgitation. Such patients often are labeled as having refractory gastroesophageal reflux or vomiting.
  • Best Practice Advice 2: Presence of nocturnal regurgitation, dysphagia, nausea, or symptoms occurring in the absence of meals does not exclude rumination syndrome, but makes the presence of it less likely.
  • Best Practice Advice 3: Clinicians should diagnose rumination syndrome primarily on the basis of Rome IV criteria after an appropriate medical work-up.
  • Best Practice Advice 4: Diaphragmatic breathing with or without biofeedback is the first-line therapy in all cases of rumination syndrome.
  • Best Practice Advice 5: Instructions for effective diaphragmatic breathing can be given by speech therapists, psychologists, gastroenterologists, and other health practitioners familiar with the technique.
  • This article gives instructions on this technique: “Diaphragmatic breathing can be learned easily by putting a hand on the chest and on the abdomen during respiration, and only allowing the hand on the abdomen to move out with inspiration while the chest remains in position (Figure 3). We instruct patients to take breaths by protruding the abdomen while keeping the chest as stationary as possible. Each inhalation or exhalation should be slow and complete, aiming for 6 to 8 respirations per minute. We recommend diaphragmatic breathing for 15 minutes after each meal, or longer if the sensation of impending rumination remains. The technique also should be practiced in the absence of meals to become expert at the technique. Uncontrolled studies and case series have reported resolution or improvement in rumination symptoms after diaphragmatic breathing in 20%–66% of patients. Figure 3: The patient slowly inhales through the nose while protruding the abdomen and keeping the chest stationary. (B) The patient slowly exhales via the mouth and allows the abdomen to retract.”
  • Best Practice Advice 6: Objective testing for rumination syndrome with postprandial high-resolution esophageal impedance manometry can be used to support the diagnosis, but expertise and lack of standardized protocols are current limitations.
  • Best Practice Advice 7: Baclofen, at a dose of 10 mg 3 times daily, is a reasonable next step in refractory [adult] patients.

My take: This is a useful review article.  Rumination needs to be considered particularly in patients with regurgitation, often labelled vomiting by families, that happens quickly after meals.

Related posts:

In the news…from Washington Post:

Baclofen for Rumination

A recent randomized, placebo-controlled cross-over study by A Pauweis et al (Am J Gastroenterol 2018; 113: 97-104) indicated that baclofen improved rumination syndrome in adults (mean age 42 years). Thanks to Ben Gold for this reference.

Baclofen (dosed at 10 mg TID) had the following effects:

  • reduced rumination episodes from 13 (8-22) to 8 (3-11) (P=0.004)
  • increased lower esophageal sphincter (LES) pressure (17.8 vs. 13.1, P=0.0002) and lowered number of transient LES relaxations (4 vs 7, P=0.17)
  • overall treatment evaluation was superior after baclofen compared to placebo (P=0.03)

My take: In this study, baclofen improved symptoms of rumination and regurgitation, but not supragastric belching.

Related posts:

“Escape” stairs in Hoover Dam

High-resolution Esophageal Manometry for Rumination Syndrome.

Briefly noted: While in most cases, rumination syndrome does not require manometry for diagnosis, in cases of uncertainty, it can be helpful.  A recent retrospective study (FR Grunder, A Aspirot, C Faure. JPGN 2017; 65: 627-32) highlights the utility of high-resolution esophageal manometry (HREM) in the diagnosis of rumination syndrome using 15 patients with rumination and 15 control patients.

Background: The sensitivity of HREM can be lower in a clinical setting as many “subjects with rumination are often able to tolerate the test meal during the manometry study with minimal or no symptoms.”

HREM also helps determine whether rumination is primary, secondary or if there is supragastric belch-associated rumination.

  • Primary rumination indicates that abdominal pressure increases before the retrograde flow
  • Secondary rumination indicates that abdominal pressure increases after a reflux event
  • Supragastric belch-associated rumination indicates an association of air inflow (detected with combined impedance) in the esophagus immediately followed by a rumination event

Key finding from this study:

  • HREM had a sensitivity and specificity of 80% and 100% respectively to confirm the diagnosis of rumination.  “the association of a clinical rumination episode with a rise in gastric pressure >30 mmHg seems to be specific for the diagnosis of rumination syndrome in children.”

My take: Manometry is usually not needed for the diagnosis of rumination syndrome but does help explain the pathophysiology.

Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon




#NASPGHAN17 Why Rome IV Criteria are important

More information from this year’s annual NASPGHAN meeting.

This blog entry has abbreviated/summarized this presentation. Though not intentional, some important material is likely to have been omitted; in addition, transcription errors are possible as well.

The following slides highlight a terrific lecture by Carlo DiLorenzo (Nationwide Children’s Hospital).  Subsequently, I’ve included slides from Miranda van Tilburg (UNC); I was unable to attend her lecture and found some of the slides via twitter.

Key points:

  • Rome IV criteria are helpful, particularly with less common presentations like rumination
  • There has been an increase in nausea.  Morning nausea can be equated as a marker of anxiety until proven otherwise.
  • There is improved wording. “After appropriate medical evaluation, the symptoms cannot be attributed to another condition” may help facilitate the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome, for example, in patients with IBD who are in remission.

From Miranda Tilburg:

Rumination Syndrome and Dental Erosions

J Monagas et al JPGN 2017; 64: 930-2 showed that among 30 patients with rumination (age 4 to 21 years) the rate of dental erosions was 77% (23 of 30) compared wtih 4 (13%) of the control subjects.  My take: Patients with rumination should see their dentist.

Related post: Costs of Rumination

The Thinker, Rodin Museum

Costs of Rumination

Reading a recent study (A Alioto et al. J Pediatr 2017; 185: 155-9) reminded me of “My Cousin Vinny.”  In a crucial scene, Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei) proves that the accused killers were not the killers by identifying tire tread marks that were inconsistent with the defendants’ car simply by looking a photograph.

Similarly, the authors of this retrospective report highlight the extensive cost of that children undergo for evaluation of rumination when simple observation might suffice.

Key findings:

  • Consecutive patients (n=68, 2009-2015) admitted to their inpatient rumination treatment program had undergone an average of 8.8 tests at a cost of $19,795.
  • Few tests were beneficial. Most common tests were esophagogastroduodenoscopy, upper gastrointestinal series, and abdominal ultrasound scan.


  • The cohort is derived from a quaternary center
  • The number of tests may be underestimated as the tests were done by the referring center; thus, the authors were reliant on data provided to them

Other comments:

  • A good clinical history can suffice to establish the diagnosis. “Observing the patient eat and/or drink and then ruminate is perhaps even more useful.”
  • “We strongly suggest that if a patient meets the symptom-based criteria for rumination syndrome, no further diagnostic testing is warranted. That said, …various phenotypes of the syndrome may make the diagnosis less clear-cut” and some testing could be needed.
  • Rumination may be “symptomatic for over 2 years before the diagnosis is established” (Pediatrics 2003; 111: 158-62)

My take: Not every doctor is as good at doctoring as Vinny Gambini is at lawyering. That being said, the authors note “for patients who present with repeated effortless regurgitation and vomiting of food that begins soon after they eat or drink, is not preceded by retching, and does not occur during sleep, there are very few other diagnoses to be considered.”

Related blog posts:

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  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.

Omaha Beach 2017

Treatment for rumination and belching

Treatment options for rumination and for belching are limited.  Baclofen improves symptoms and decreases events in both of these disorders (Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2012; 10: 379-84).

Rumination is characterized by effortless regurgitation of recently ingested food into the mouth (or beyond). It is easily mistaken for vomiting disorders and motility disturbances.  With rumination, patients have retrograde flow of gastric contents into the esophagus through voluntary, though unintentional, abdominal muscle contractions with increased intragastric pressure increases.

Supragastric belching occurs when air is sucked into the esophagus by decreasing the intrathoracic pressure or by contracting pharyngeal muscles.

Baclofen is an agonist of the γ-aminobutyric acid B (GABA) receptor which results in increased lower esophageal sphincter (LES) pressures and reduced swallowing rates. Baclofen has been shown to improve reflux, mainly by reducing transient LES relaxations (TLESRs) but also by increasing basal LES pressures.

In the majority of patients, the mainstay of treatment has been behavioral which use diaphragmatic breathing to compete/extinguish these behaviors.  There are a shortage of therapists familiar with this approach.  As such, alternative treatments are needed.  In this study, high-resolution manometry-impendance recordings were taken from 16 patients (10 women; mean age 43 years; range 18-89 years); eight of the patients had rumination.  Only 12 patients were included in the final analysis; four patients refused repeat manometry.  Manometry was performed before and after treatment along with recording symptoms.  Both symptoms and manometry recordings improved with Baclofen therapy.  This was a one-week open-label study.  Baclofen was dosed at 10 mg TID.  At baseline the total number of “flow events” was 473; after treatment, this was reduced to 282 events.  In total, rumination events decreased by 68% during treatment.   This improvement correlated with increased LES pressures.

Four of the 12 patients reported mild side effects mainly sleepiness and difficulty concentrating.

Additional references:

  • -Clin Gastroenterol & Hep 2007; 5:772. Review. Supragastric belching usually due to aerophagia and is very frequen (up to 20/hr)t. GERD related belching is less infrequent, has sour taste, usually less loud & after meals. Gum chewing, excessive beverage drinks, rapid eating or drinking,  smoking or using straw for drinking may increase air in the stomach and lead to burping which can be behavioural problem as well.
  • -“Behavioral Treatment of Chronic Belching Due to Aerophagia in a  Normal Adult” Behav Modif 2006; 30; 341
  • -JPGN 2011; 52: 414. Mgt of severe rumination @ Columbus Ohio. n=5. Definitive dx established with AD manometry with typical r-wave pattern (when regurgitates after a meal)
  • -JPGN 2010; 50: 103. Rumination occurring in NL intelligent adolescents. May start with regurgitation and progress to inability to swallow saliva.
  • -Clin Gastro & Hep 2006; 4: 1314. Review of management of rumination/case presentation
  • -Chitkara et al: Teaching diaphragmatic breathing for rumination syndrome. Am J Gastroenterol. 2006 Nov;101(11):2449-52. Review. Can use behavioral interventions such as deep breathing exercises/ diaphragmatic breathing to break the spasms..
  • -Gastroenterology 2006; 130: 1527-28. Review and criteria of rumination.
  • -Pediatrics 2003; 111: 158-62. Review of rumination dx, Rx, & prognosis.
  • -Clin Persp in Gastro 2000; 3 (5): 277.

Additional Baclofen references:

  • -J Pediatr 2006; 149: 436, 468. Baclofen reduces GER. 0.5mg/kg/day
  • -JPGN 2004; 38: 317. Effectiveness of baclofen in neurologically-impaired children w GER. (0.7/kg/day), n=8.
  • -Gastroenterology 2000; 118: 7-13. Use of baclofen to reduce TLESR.
  • -Aliment Pharm Ther 2003; 17: 243-51. Baclofen reduced GER (acid & nonacid). side effects -N, V, dizzy. dose: in adults, start at 5mg tid, increase c 5mg increments every 4th day to 10-20mg tid.