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ABSTRACT: Physical symptoms other than pain often contribute to suffering near the end of life. In addition to pain, the most common symptoms in the terminal stages of an illness such as cancer or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome are fatigue, anorexia, cachexia, nausea, vomiting, constipation, delirium and dyspnea. Management involves a diagnostic evaluation for the cause of each symptom when possible, treatment of the identified cause when reasonable, and concomitant treatment of the symptom using nonpharmacologic and adjunctive pharmacologic measures. Part I of this two-part article discusses fatigue, anorexia, cachexia, nausea and vomiting. Fatigue is the most common symptom at the end of life, but little is known about its pathophysiology and specific treatment. Education of the patient and family is the foundation of treatment with the possible use of adjunctive psychostimulants. Anorexia and cachexia caused by wasting syndromes are best managed with patient and family education, as well as a possible trial of appetite stimulants such as megestrol or dexamethasone. For appropriate pharmacologic treatment, it is helpful to identify the pathophysiologic origin of nausea in each patient.
Practical Selection of Antiemetics - Article
ABSTRACT: An understanding of the pathophysiology of nausea and the mechanisms of antiemetics can help family physicians improve the cost-effectiveness and efficacy of therapy. Nausea and vomiting are mediated primarily by visceral stimulation through dopamine and serotonin, by vestibular and central nervous system causes through histamine and acetylcholine, and by chemoreceptor trigger zone stimulation through dopamine and serotonin. Treatment is directed at these pathways. Antihistamines and anticholinergic agents are most effective in patients with nausea resulting from vestibular and central nervous system causes. Dopamine antagonists block dopamine in the intestines and chemoreceptor trigger zone; indications for these agents are similar to those for serotonin antagonists. Serotonin antagonists block serotonin in the intestines and chemoreceptor trigger zone, and are most effective for treating gastrointestinal irritation and postoperative nausea and vomiting. Complementary and alternative therapies, such as ginger, acupressure, and vitamin B6, have variable effectiveness in the treatment of pregnancy-induced nausea.
Evaluation of Nausea and Vomiting - Article
ABSTRACT: A comprehensive history and physical examination can often reveal the cause of nausea and vomiting, making further evaluation unnecessary. Acute symptoms generally are the result of infectious, inflammatory, or iatrogenic causes. Most infections are self-limiting and require minimal intervention; iatrogenic causes can be resolved by removing the offending agent. Chronic symptoms are usually a pathologic response to any of a variety of conditions. Gastrointestinal etiologies include obstruction, functional disorders, and organic diseases. Central nervous system etiologies are primarily related to conditions that increase intracranial pressure, and typically cause other neurologic signs. Pregnancy is the most common endocrinologic cause of nausea and must be considered in any woman of childbearing age. Numerous metabolic abnormalities and psychiatric diagnoses also may cause nausea and vomiting. Evaluation should first focus on detecting any emergencies or complications that require hospitalization. Attention should then turn to identifying the underlying cause and providing specific therapies. When the cause cannot be determined, empiric therapy with an antiemetic is appropriate. Initial diagnostic testing should generally be limited to basic laboratory tests and plain radiography. Further testing, such as upper endoscopy or computed tomography of the abdomen, should be determined by clinical suspicion based on a complete history and physical examination.
Primary Brain Tumors in Adults - Article
ABSTRACT: Primary malignant brain tumors account for 2 percent of all cancers in U.S. adults. The most common malignant brain tumor is glioblastoma multiforme, and patients with this type of tumor have a poor prognosis. Previous exposure to high-dose ionizing radiation is the only proven environmental risk factor for a brain tumor. Primary brain tumors are classified based on their cellular origin and histologic appearance. Typical symptoms include persistent headache, seizures, nausea, vomiting, neurocognitive symptoms, and personality changes. A tumor can be identified using brain imaging, and the diagnosis is confirmed with histopathology. Any patient with chronic, persistent headache in association with protracted nausea, vomiting, seizures, change in headache pattern, neurologic symptoms, or positional worsening should be evaluated for a brain tumor. Magnetic resonance imaging is the preferred initial imaging study. A comprehensive neurosurgical evaluation is necessary to obtain tissue for diagnosis and for possible resection of the tumor. Primary brain tumors rarely metastasize outside the central nervous system, and there is no standard staging method. Surgical resection of the tumor is the mainstay of therapy. Postoperative radiation and chemotherapy have improved survival in patients with high-grade brain tumors. Recent developments in targeted chemotherapy provide novel treatment options for patients with tumor recurrence. Primary care physicians play an important role in the perioperative and supportive treatment of patients with primary brain tumors, including palliative care and symptom control.
Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy - Article
ABSTRACT: Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, commonly known as 'morning sickness,' affects approximately 80 percent of pregnant women. Although several theories have been proposed, the exact cause remains unclear. Recent research has implicated Helicobacter pylori as one possible cause. Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy is generally a mild, self-limited condition that may be controlled with conservative measures. A small percentage of pregnant women have a more profound course, with the most severe form being hyperemesis gravidarum. Unlike morning sickness, hyperemesis gravidarum may have negative implications for maternal and fetal health. Physicians should carefully evaluate patients with nonresolving or worsening symptoms to rule out the most common pregnancy-related and nonpregnancy-related causes of severe vomiting. Once pathologic causes have been ruled out, treatment is individualized. Initial treatment should be conservative and should involve dietary changes, emotional support, and perhaps alternative therapy such as ginger or acupressure. Women with more complicated nausea and vomiting of pregnancy also may need pharmacologic therapy. Several medications, including pyridoxine and doxylamine, have been shown to be safe and effective treatments. Pregnant women who have severe vomiting may require hospitalization, orally or intravenously administered corticosteroid therapy, and total parenteral nutrition.
Nausea and Vomiting in Early Pregnancy - Clinical Evidence Handbook
Ginger: An Overview - Article
ABSTRACT: Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is one of the more commonly used herbal supplements. Although often consumed for culinary purposes, it is taken by many patients to treat a variety of conditions. Ginger has been shown to be effective for pregnancy-induced and postoperative nausea and vomiting. There is less evidence to support its use for motion sickness or other types of nausea and vomiting. Mixed results have been found in limited studies of ginger for the treatment of arthritis symptoms.
ABSTRACT: Nearly two thirds of patients with cancer will undergo radiation therapy as part of their treatment plan. Given the increased use of radiation therapy and the growing number of cancer survivors, family physicians will increasingly care for patients experiencing adverse effects of radiation. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have been shown to significantly improve symptoms of depression in patients undergoing chemotherapy, although they have little effect on cancer-related fatigue. Radiation dermatitis is treated with topical steroids and emollient creams. Skin washing with a mild, unscented soap is acceptable. Cardiovascular disease is a well-established adverse effect in patients receiving radiation therapy, although there are no consensus recommendations for cardiovascular screening in this population. Radiation pneumonitis is treated with oral prednisone and pentoxifylline. Radiation esophagitis is treated with dietary modification, proton pump inhibitors, promotility agents, and viscous lidocaine. Radiation-induced emesis is ameliorated with 5-hydroxytryptamine3 receptor antagonists and steroids. Symptomatic treatments for chronic radiation cystitis include anticholinergic agents and phenazopyridine. Sexual dysfunction from radiation therapy includes erectile dysfunction and vaginal stenosis, which are treated with phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors and vaginal dilators, respectively.
Ginger for the Treatment of Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy - FPIN's Clinical Inquiries
Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy - Article
ABSTRACT: Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy affects nearly 75% of pregnant women. The exact cause is unknown. In most cases, it is a mild, self-limited condition that can be controlled with conservative measures and has no adverse fetal sequelae. About 1% of women develop hyperemesis gravidarum, which may result in adverse outcomes for the mother and fetus. Patients with nausea and vomiting of pregnancy should be evaluated for other causes, particularly if symptoms are unremitting or presentation is atypical. Initial treatment is conservative and includes dietary changes, emotional support, and vitamin B6 supplementation. Several safe and effective pharmacologic therapies are available for women who do not improve with initial treatment. Women with hyperemesis gravidarum may require more aggressive interventions, including hospitalization, rehydration therapy, and parenteral nutrition.