Gastric Emptying

Explore the Gastric Emptying Test, a diagnostic tool for gastrointestinal disorders. Learn about its uses, procedures, and results.

By Joshua Napilay on May 15, 2024.

Fact Checked by RJ Gumban.

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What is a Gastric Emptying Test?

A Gastric Emptying Test, also known as a gastric emptying scan or study, is a medical procedure used to assess the rate at which food and liquids move from the stomach into the small intestine. This test is primarily conducted to diagnose and evaluate conditions related to delayed gastric emptying, known as gastroparesis. Gastroparesis is a disorder in which the stomach muscles do not function properly, leading to nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and bloating symptoms.

During a gastric emptying test, the patient is typically asked to consume a meal or drink that contains a small amount of radioactive material. This material can be easily tracked with a special scanner, allowing medical professionals to monitor food movement through the digestive system. Common foods used for this test include scrambled eggs or oatmeal mixed with a radioactive tracer.

After consumption, the patient lies down or sits beneath a scanner that records abdomen images at specific intervals. These images show the progress of the radioactive meal through the stomach and into the small intestine. By analyzing these images, doctors can determine if there are delays or abnormalities in the gastric emptying rate.

The test results help healthcare providers diagnose and manage conditions like gastroparesis. Treatment options may include dietary modifications, medication, or other therapies to improve gastric motility.

Printable Gastric Emptying Test

Download this Gastric Emptying Test, which assesses the rate at which food and liquids move from the stomach into the small intestine.

How Does it Work?

A Gastric Emptying Test is a diagnostic procedure used to assess the rate at which food leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine. Here's how the test works, broken down into critical steps:

1. Preparation

  • To ensure an empty stomach, the patient should fast for a specified period, typically overnight.
  • Inform the patient about the test, its purpose, and potential risks.

2. Administration of Radioactive Tracer

  • A meal or drink is prepared with a small amount of radioactive material, usually Technetium-99m sulfur colloid or similar tracers. This radioactive material is safe and used solely for tracking purposes.
  • The patient consumes the radioactive meal, often consisting of scrambled eggs, oatmeal, or a specific liquid.

3. Imaging Scans

  • The patient is positioned under a gamma camera or scanner, which can detect and record the movement of the radioactive material.
  • Images are captured at specific intervals, typically 1, 2, and 4 hours after ingestion.
  • The gamma camera takes pictures of the abdomen, focusing on the stomach area.

4. Data Analysis

  • Radiologists or gastroenterologists analyze the collected images to determine how the radioactive meal empties from the stomach into the small intestine.
  • Delayed gastric emptying or abnormalities in the process are diagnosed based on these findings.

5. Results and Diagnosis

  • The results diagnose conditions like gastroparesis, which may be characterized by delayed gastric emptying.
  • These findings guide healthcare providers in planning appropriate treatment strategies, including dietary changes, medications, or other interventions.

Gastric Emptying Test Example (sample)

This Gastric Emptying Test example provides a clear and structured template for healthcare professionals to request and document gastric emptying tests for their patients. It includes essential sections for patient and referring physician information, the reason for referral, test details, patient instructions, test procedure, and a follow-up plan. 

The template is designed to streamline the process, ensuring efficient data collection and adherence to necessary patient instructions. This Gastric Emptying Test example can be customized and saved as a PDF for easy sharing and documentation within healthcare settings, enhancing record-keeping and patient care.

Download this Gastric Emptying Test Example:

Gastric Emptying Test Example (sample)

When would you use this test?

The Gastric Emptying Test, often called a gastric emptying scan or study, is a valuable diagnostic tool used by medical practitioners, particularly gastroenterologists, to assess the function of the stomach and small intestine. Here are the critical situations when this test is appropriately used:

  • Diagnosing Gastroparesis: The primary and most common indication for a Gastric Emptying Test is the diagnosis of gastroparesis. Gastroparesis is when the stomach muscles do not function properly, leading to delayed gastric emptying. Patients with chronic nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and early satiety may undergo this test to confirm the condition.
  • Evaluating Unexplained Gastrointestinal Symptoms: When patients present with chronic and unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms, such as bloating, heartburn, or discomfort after eating, a Gastric Emptying Test can help identify if slow gastric emptying contributes to these issues.
  • Monitoring Treatment Efficacy: For individuals already diagnosed with gastroparesis or other motility disorders, periodic Gastric Emptying Tests may be conducted to assess the effectiveness of treatment plans, including dietary modifications, medications, and lifestyle changes.
  • Rule Out Other Gastrointestinal Disorders: In some cases, this test is used to rule out other gastrointestinal disorders that may mimic the symptoms of gastroparesis, ensuring that the correct diagnosis is made and appropriate treatment is initiated.
  • Preoperative Evaluation: Before certain gastrointestinal surgeries, particularly those that may affect gastric motility, a Gastric Emptying Test may be conducted to assess baseline function and guide surgical planning.
  • Research and Clinical Studies: Researchers and clinicians may use Gastric Emptying Tests in clinical trials or studies to better understand gastric motility, its variations, and its impact on various gastrointestinal conditions.

What do the Results Mean?

The results of a Gastric Emptying Test, which is crucial for diagnosing conditions like gastroparesis, provide valuable information about the rate at which food leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine. These results can be categorized into various scenarios, each with its implications:

Normal Gastric Emptying

  • If the radioactive meal empties from the stomach within a typical timeframe (usually less than 10-20% of the meal remaining at 4 hours), it is considered a normal result.
  • This suggests no significant delays in gastric emptying, and other causes for gastrointestinal symptoms should be explored.

Delayed Gastric Emptying

  • Delayed gastric emptying is diagnosed when a significant portion of the meal remains in the stomach at the end of the test (usually more than 60-90% remaining at 4 hours).
  • This result is a hallmark of gastroparesis, where the stomach muscles are impaired, leading to symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

Rapid Gastric Emptying

  • In rare cases, the meal may empty too quickly, leading to gastrointestinal symptoms.
  • Rapid gastric emptying may be associated with conditions like dumping syndrome, often related to specific surgeries.

Intermediate or Mixed Patterns

  • Sometimes, results may show intermediate or mixed patterns, where different meal portions empty at varying rates.
  • This may indicate a more complex motility disorder and require further evaluation and testing to determine the cause.

Correlation with Symptoms

Interpreting the results in the context of the patient's symptoms is essential. A normal test in a symptomatic patient may suggest a different underlying cause.

Why use Carepatron as your Gastric Emptying app?

Carepatron is the premier choice for managing your Gastric Emptying Test with our dedicated Gastric Emptying Test app and software. Our platform is designed to streamline the process, from patient scheduling and data collection to result analysis.

You can trust that your patients will receive precise and reliable results. Our software features intuitive data entry and real-time tracking, so you can always stay on top of your patient's progress.

We also offer a comprehensive solution for managing the entire patient journey. Our platform allows you to track patient history, set up automated reminders, and easily communicate with patients. This holistic approach ensures a seamless experience for clinicians and patients, enhancing patient engagement and satisfaction.

At Carepatron, we understand the importance of patient data security and compliance with healthcare regulations. Our Gastric Emptying Test app and software are built with robust security features to protect sensitive information. We adhere to the highest industry standards to keep your patient data safe, giving you peace of mind in an increasing concern about data privacy.

Choose Carepatron for your Gastric Emptying Test needs and experience a state-of-the-art, efficient, and secure platform designed to enhance patient care while simplifying the administrative aspects of your practice. We're dedicated to helping you deliver the best possible care to your patients so you can focus on what matters most: their health and well-being.

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Who typically requests a Gastric Emptying Test?
Who typically requests a Gastric Emptying Test?

Commonly asked questions

Who typically requests a Gastric Emptying Test?

Gastroenterologists or healthcare providers typically request Gastric Emptying Tests for patients exhibiting symptoms like chronic nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or early satiety, which could indicate gastric motility issues.

How are Gastric Emptying Tests used?

During a Gastric Emptying Test, a patient consumes a meal or drink with a radioactive tracer. Images are taken at specific intervals using a gamma camera to monitor the movement of the meal from the stomach into the small intestine, providing insights into gastric emptying.

How long does a Gastric Emptying Test take?

A Gastric Emptying Test typically takes about 4 hours, with images taken at intervals throughout this period to track the movement of the meal through the digestive system.

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