Gastric Emptying Tests


Gastric Emptying Tests

Gastric emptying tests are tests that measure how fast food moves through the stomach. They are done to understand why people are having problems like chest pain, feeling uncomfortably full after eating, nausea, heartburn, and vomiting after eating.

Preparation: Before performing a gastric emptying test, the patient will need to stop taking certain medications that can affect gastric motility. Also, the doctor may ask the patient to avoid certain foods and liquids the day before the test.

Procedure: The patient will start by eating or drinking a radioactive substance that can be tracked by a scanner. The patient will be monitored for a few hours as the food moves through the stomach into the small intestine. The amount of time it takes for the food to move through the stomach can be recorded.

Types: There are two common types of gastric emptying tests that are available:

  • Scintigraphy: This type of test measures the movement of food through the stomach with a scan to track a radioactive material the patient has been given. The participant will be asked to eat a special meal that contains a small amount of a radioactive element.
  • Gastric Emptying Breath Test: This type of test typically uses a sample of the patient's breath to measure how quickly food is moving through the stomach. The patient will be asked to eat a meal that contains a short-acting carbon source and then blow into a machine that measures the amount of gas being released from the meal.

Risks: Because gastric emptying tests use radiation, there is a slight risk of developing radiation-related side effects. However, these risks are usually small and can be minimized by following the doctor's instructions.

Why: Gastric emptying tests are used to diagnose and manage a variety of gastrointestinal conditions. Gastroparesis, a condition where the stomach does not empty properly, is one such condition. Other conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer disease (PUD), and gastric outlet obstruction, can also be diagnosed with gastric emptying tests.

When: Gastric emptying tests are usually ordered when a patient is having symptoms of gastrointestinal conditions such as GERD, gastroparesis, PUD, and gastric outlet obstruction. The tests can also be ordered to evaluate how well a patient is responding to treatment for one of these conditions.