Neurology India
menu-bar5 Open access journal indexed with Index Medicus
  Users online: 7276  
 Home | Login 
About Editorial board Articlesmenu-bullet NSI Publicationsmenu-bullet Search Instructions Online Submission Subscribe Videos Etcetera Contact
  Navigate Here 
 Resource Links
  »  Similar in PUBMED
 »  Search Pubmed for
 »  Search in Google Scholar for
  »  Article in PDF (622 KB)
  »  Citation Manager
  »  Access Statistics
  »  Reader Comments
  »  Email Alert *
  »  Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this Article
 »  References
 »  Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded61    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 2    

Recommend this journal


Table of Contents    
Year : 2012  |  Volume : 60  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 108-109

Vertebral artery dissection and intractable hiccups: An uncommon presentation

Department of Neurosurgery, GB Pant Hospital, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission19-Nov-2011
Date of Decision19-Nov-2011
Date of Acceptance21-Nov-2011
Date of Web Publication7-Mar-2012

Correspondence Address:
Daljit Singh
Department of Neurosurgery, GB Pant Hospital, New Delhi
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0028-3886.93604

Rights and Permissions

How to cite this article:
Meher S, Churasia P, Tandon M, Singh D. Vertebral artery dissection and intractable hiccups: An uncommon presentation. Neurol India 2012;60:108-9

How to cite this URL:
Meher S, Churasia P, Tandon M, Singh D. Vertebral artery dissection and intractable hiccups: An uncommon presentation. Neurol India [serial online] 2012 [cited 2023 Dec 1];60:108-9. Available from:


Hiccup (singultus - act of catching one's breath while sobbing) is a benign, frequent and usually a transient phenomenon associated with gastrointestinal disorders. Intractable hiccup, with bouts lasting for more than 48 h, is uncommon. [1] Most neurological lesions for hiccup are located in the vicinity of the brainstem. [2] We describe a patient with vertebral artery dissection and pseudoaneurysm with acute-onset intractable hiccup.

A 26-year-old male presented with acute-onset pain in the right neck followed by persistent hiccups of three years' duration. The pain was severe, unbearable, tearing in character. The hiccups were initially two to four per day and rapidly progressed to 10-12 per min lasting throughout the day. On examination he was fully conscious with right lower cranial nerve paresis without motor or sensory deficit. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed a large mass in the right cerebello-pontine angle lifting and tenting the brainstem [Figure 1]. The lesion had layering effect suggesting a thrombus in a vessel. Angiography showed a large pseudoaneurysm measuring 35 × 20 mm [Figure 2]. The vertebral artery was obliterated with coils [Figure 3] resulting in complete non-visualization. There was no retrograde flow from the contralateral vertebral artery [Figure 4]. Following the procedure he had complete relief from hiccups.
Figure 1: MRI saggital view showing a large mass lifting and tenting the medulla with layering effects (arrow). The lesion is suggestive of vascular etiology

Click here to view
Figure 2: Preop Digital Substraction Angiogram (DSA) showing large vertebral pseudoaneurysm secondary to vertebral dissection (arrows)

Click here to view
Figure 3: Obliteration of vertebral artery using coils (arrow) with non-visualization of the lesion

Click here to view
Figure 4: DSA of left vertebral artery showing no retrograde filling of lesion and normal distal angio architect. Arrow represents coils mass in the right vertebral artery

Click here to view

Persistent intractable hiccups can be unpleasant and debilitating and may indicate organic disease and should be further investigated. Intractable hiccups affect male subjects (80-90%) more frequently than females. [3] Neurological causes of intractable hiccup include medullary lesions, multiple sclerosis, periaqueductal lesions, neuromyelitis optica, Arnold- Chiari malformation More Details, and cavernous angioma of the medulla oblongata. Rare etiologies include craniovertebral injury, spinal cord disease, arteriovenous malformation, and hemangioblastoma. [4],[5],[6],[7]

In the vast majority, hiccups are treatable with home remedies, various psychosomatic measures, swallowing, breathing and eating techniques. Various pharmacological agents used in the treatment of hiccups include gastrointestinal stimulants, intravenous steroids, and antipsychotic medications. Sodium valproate and gabapentin have been shown to be effective. [7] Surgical management involves removing the offending lesion. Microvascular decompression for hiccups secondary to medullary and vagal nerve irritation showed encouraging results. [8]

The pathophysiology of hiccups remains unclear; a hiccup is supposed to be related to a stimulation of one or more portions of the so-called hiccup reflex arc. The brainstem hiccup center is near the respiratory center in the medulla. Other supratentorial regions likely to play a role in the genesis of a hiccup are the hypothalamus, temporal areas, and the reticular activating substance. Afferent pathway of the hiccup reflex consists of pharyngeal plexus, the thoracic sympathetic chain T6-T12, the vagus and phrenic nerves. The principal efferent limb and diaphragmatic spasms are mediated by motor fibers of the phrenic and vagus nerves. [9]

Our patient is probably the first case of intractable hiccups due to vertebral artery dissection and pseudoaneurysm formation. Patient had a good response with complete vertebral artery occlusion, supporting the hypothesis that besides direct mechanical compression of the brainstem, continuous pulsatile pressure might have a role to play in triggering the hiccup. A similar explanation has been proposed by Farin et al.,[8] who reported the role of microvascular decompression in intractable hiccups.

 » References Top

1.Marsot-Dupuch K, Bousson V, Cabane J, Tubiana JM. Intractable Hiccups; The role of cerebral MR in cases without systemic cause. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol 1995;16:2093-100.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Souadjian JV, Cain JC. Intractable hiccup. Etiologic factors in 220 cases. Postgrad Med 1968;43:72-7.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Chang YY, Chen WH, Liu JS, Shih PY, Chen SS. Intractable hiccup caused by medulla oblongata lesions. J Formos Med Assoc 1993;92:926-8.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Misu T, Fujihara K, Nakashima I, Sato S. Intractable hiccup and and nausea with periaqueductal lesions in neuromyelitis optica. Neurology 2005;65:1479-82.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Musumeci A, Cristofori L, Bricolo A. Persistent hiccup as presenting symptoms in medulla oblongata cavernoma: A case report and review of literature. Clin Neurol Neurosurg 2000;102:13-7.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Nagayama T, Kaji M, Hirano H, Niiro M, Kuratsu J. Intractable hiccups as a presenting symptom of Chiary 1 malformation J Neurosurg 2004;100:1107-10.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Alonso-Navarro H, Rubio L, Jimenez FJ. Refractory hiccup: Successful treatment with gabapentin. Clin Neuropharmacol 2007;30:186-7.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Farin A, Chakrabarti I, Giannotta SL, Vaynamn S, Samudrala S. Microvascular decompression for intractable singulutus; technical case report. Neurosurg 2008;62:E1180-1.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Newson-Davis J. An experimental study of hiccups. Brain 1970;93:851-72.  Back to cited text no. 9


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4]

This article has been cited by
1 A case of vertebral artery dissection presented with refractory hiccups
Hatice Ferhan Kömürcü, Halil Arslan, Ömer Anlar
Acta Neurologica Belgica. 2020; 120(5): 1255
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Chronic Hiccups
Eva K. Kohse,Markus W. Hollmann,Hubert J. Bardenheuer,Jens Kessler
Anesthesia & Analgesia. 2017; 125(4): 1169
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


Print this article  Email this article
Online since 20th March '04
Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow