Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio have developed a device to treat hiccups. The drinking straw-like device allows a user to apply forceful suction to draw water into it, with subsequent swallowing triggering both the phrenic and vagus nerves, which helps to relieve hiccups. The treatment may be the first science-based approach to treating hiccups, which can be a major problem for people who suffer from protracted or painful bouts.
For most of us, hiccups can be inconvenient and embarrassing. However, for some people they can be more of a burden. Imagine suffering a bout of the hiccups after abdominal surgery. In other patients, bouts of hiccups can last for days, or even longer. “Hiccups are occasionally annoying for some people, but for others they significantly impact quality of life,” said Ali Seifi, a researcher involved in the study. “This includes many patients with brain and stroke injury, and cancer patients. We had a couple of cancer patients in this study. Some chemotherapies cause hiccups.”
Most treatments for hiccups are fairly crude. While they work sometimes, they aren’t universally effective, particularly for problematic cases of hiccups. Drinking out of the far side of a glass of water is a good way to get covered in water, but it may not stop your hiccups. “There have been no clear medications for hiccups,” said Seifi. “The only drugs prescribed are psychiatry medications that do stop the spasms but make the patients sleepy. There also is no device to treat hiccups. A few devices were patented or proposed for provisional patents, but they never made it to the stage of being available to people.”
This latest device has been carefully thought through, with the goal of stimulating nerves that can calm hiccups. The researchers have called the device the “forced inspiratory suction and swallow tool,” and it resembles a large drinking straw. “This is not a regular straw,” said Seifi. “To drink water through it, you need lots of effort and lots of negative pressure inside your chest. The valve causes you to forcefully suction the water from the cup, and when you do, after a few seconds the first sip of water enters the pipe and goes into your mouth.”
The combination of forceful suction and swallowing triggers the phrenic and vagus nerves, which helps to calm hiccups. Recently, the researchers conducted a study to see how effective the tool is at stopping hiccups. In a group of 249 volunteers, the device was nearly 92% effective at stopping hiccups, and over 90% reported that the tool was easy to use.
Study in journal JAMA Network Open: Evaluation of the Forced Inspiratory Suction and Swallow Tool to Stop Hiccups
Device info page: HiccAway…