A cross-sectional study of nausea in functional abdominal pain: Relation to mucosal mast cells and psychological functioning

Craig Friesen, Meenal Singh, Vivekanand Singh, Jennifer V. Schurman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Nausea is a common symptom in youth with chronic abdominal pain. The aims of the current study were to assess: 1) the frequency of nausea in patients with functional dyspepsia (FD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), respectively, as defined by Rome IV criteria; and, 2) relationships between nausea and mucosal inflammation as defined by antral and duodenal eosinophil and mast cell densities. A secondary aim was to assess relationships between nausea and other gastrointestinal symptoms, non-gastrointestinal somatic symptoms, and psychological dysfunction. Methods: Records from patients with pain associated functional gastrointestinal disorders were retrospectively reviewed for gastrointestinal and somatic symptoms and anxiety, depression, and somatizations scores as assessed by the Behavior Assessment System for Children (BASC-2). In addition, previous gastric and mucosal biopsies were assessed for mast cell and eosinophil densities, respectively. Results: 250 patients, ages 8 to 17 years, were assessed. Nausea was reported by 78% and was equally prevalent in those with FD alone, those with IBS alone, and those with both FD and IBS. Nausea was associated with increased mean (21.4 vs. 17.5) and peak (26.2 vs. 22.9) duodenal mast cell densities as compared those without nausea. Nausea was also associated with a wide variety of individual gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as headaches, fatigue, and dizziness. Lastly, nausea was associated with elevated self-report scores for anxiety (55.2 vs. 50.0), depression (50.2 vs. 46.1), and somatization (70.3 vs. 61.8). Conclusions: Nausea is common in children and adolescents with pain-associated FGIDs as defined by Rome IV and is not unique to either FD or IBS. Nausea is associated with increased mucosal mast cell density, non-gastrointestinal somatic symptoms, and psychologic dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number144
JournalBMC Gastroenterology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 11 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Functional dyspepsia
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Mast cells
  • Somatization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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