Vomiting may be diagnosed by an internal medicine specialist or a gastroenterologist. A detailed medical history will be taken and will include specifics about the vomiting including frequency, a description of the vomitus, duration, how soon after meals vomiting occurs, and any other symptoms. The history alone can help the physician to narrow down the cause to a few choices. The patient's abdomen will be palpated (felt with the hands) to detect any abnormalities. Vital signs will be taken to identify any abnormalities in heart rate, blood pressure, or temperature.
Although the medical history and physical exam is usually sufficient to determine the cause of vomiting, certain laboratory tests may also be performed. Blood tests may be performed to check for dehydration (decreased water), anemia (decreased number of red blood cells or iron-poor blood), and electrolyte (blood chemicals) imbalances, as well as specific tests to confirm the suspected diagnosis.
In some cases, more advanced testing may be required. These include x rays, endoscopy (a thin, wand-like camera used to visualize internal organs), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound (using sound waves to visualize internal organs), and computed tomography (CT) scanning. In addition, there are tests that measure stomach emptying and the pressure and motility of the stomach and intestine.
Alternative treatments can be effective in treating vomiting, but not the underlying cause. A physician should be consulted if vomiting is recurrent and/or lasts for more than a few days.
Belinda Rowland, Rebecca J. Frey PhD, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,