disorders, such as
Parkinson’s disease or
Gastroparesis (also called delayed gastric emptying) is a condition
involving impaired motility function in the stomach. Normally, nerves
and muscles in the stomach work properly to move digested food down into
the intestines. In people with gastroparesis, digested food moves slowly
or stops moving through the digestive tract.
People with diabetes, particularly type 1 diabetes, are at risk for
developing gastroparesis, but there are other causes. In many cases, the
cause is unknown.
Symptoms of gastroparesis include upper abdominal pain, nausea,
feeling full after eating only a few bites, bloating, vomiting,
and weight loss. If food lingers too long, it can lead to an
overgrowth of bacteria. Food also can harden, forming
potentially dangerous blockages.
Gastroparesis usually is suspected based on a person’s symptoms
and physical examination findings. Blood tests, imaging studies,
motility studies, and endoscopic procedures may be performed to
confirm the diagnosis and rule out other possible causes for
delayed gastric emptying. Specialized diagnostic tools used at
Lankenau Medical Center include:
Wireless capsule motility testing (SmartPill).
This relatively new technology involves the use of a
capsule-sized device to evaluate motility function
within the digestive tract. The device is swallowed and
travels through the digestive tract, transmitting
information about pressure, pH, and transit times for
each segment of the digestive tract and the system
overall. A data recorder, worn on a belt, collects the
information. The device is excreted in a bowel movement.
Gastric emptying study. This radiologic
test is used to measure how quickly and completely food
empties from the stomach. A small meal is eaten that
contains a small amount of radioactive material, and
then an external scan is used to track the radioactive
material as it moves through the digestive tract.
Gastroparesis cannot be cured. Treatment approaches include:
Dietary changes. Symptoms may be
improved by eating smaller and more frequent meals,
avoiding high-fat foods (fats slow digestion), and
avoiding high-fiber foods (fiber is more difficult to
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