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Overview of hiccups

Anthony J Lembo, MD
Section Editor
Mark D Aronson, MD
Deputy Editor
Howard Libman, MD, FACP


Hiccups are a common and usually transient condition affecting almost all people in their lifetime. Rarely, hiccups become intractable and can lead to adverse outcomes.

This topic will discuss the pathophysiology, etiology, evaluation, and treatment of hiccups.


A hiccup is an involuntary, intermittent, spasmodic contraction of the diaphragm and intercostal muscles. Muscle contraction results in a sudden inspiration and ends with abrupt closure of the glottis, thereby generating the characteristic 'hic' sound. Hiccups often occur with a frequency of 4 to 60 per minute, remaining relatively constant in a given individual.

The medical term for hiccups (also referred to as "hiccoughs") is singultus, derived from the Latin singult, which means "a gasp" or "a sob." Hiccups can be divided into three categories based upon their duration [1]:

A "hiccup bout" is an episode of hiccups lasting up to 48 hours

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 20, 2017.
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