(Image via BMJ Publishing Group Ltd)
When a 35-year-old man went to the hospital twice in a matter of weeks for “intractable” hiccups that lasted more than two days back in 2014, he was given an antipsychotic drug that has helped relieve symptoms in similar patients. The drug didn’t help, but eventually the hiccups stopped both times—until they hit a third time with a vengeance, lasting five days and causing vomiting as well.
Strangely, the man was also experiencing tingling and numbness in his left arm, and doctors ordered up MRI scans of his brain and spinal cord, reports Live Science. That’s when they discovered the highly unusual cause of the hiccups: a large tumor in his neck that was pressing against his phrenic nerve, they report in the journal BMJ Case Reports.
The kind of tumor, a “grossly orange” hemangioblastoma, as IFLScience.com notes, is rare, typically benign, and slow-growing, first forming in the blood vessels of the brain and spinal cord.
“The tumor was pressing on the roots of the nerves in the cervical spine—the same nerve roots that eventually coalesce into the nerves that go to the diaphragm and trigger hiccups,” says lead author Dr. Mark Goldin. “The problem it causes is simply because of its size, what is called the mass effect…. Physically cutting it out will get rid of the problem.” And so far, it has.
The man was discharged just four days after surgery to remove the tumor, and his MRIs have been clean with every subsequent visit. And no, no more debilitating bouts of hiccuping. (See why this girl can’t stop sneezing.)
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore