Gastroparesis or delayed gastric emptying, is a condition that affects the stomach muscles and prevents proper stomach emptying. In a properly functioning stomach, contractions help to crush ingested food and contents are then emptied into the small intestines in a controlled manner. With gastroparesis, paralytic muscle contractions cause stomach contents empty too slowly.
Symptoms include bloating, early feelings of fullness, heartburn, and epigastric pain. Nauseas with vomiting is also common. Weight loss can occur due to poor absorption of nutrients or taking in too few calories.
Gastroparesis is caused by either a disease of the stomach muscles or the nerves that control the muscles of the stomach. The most common cause of gastroparesis is diabetes which causes nerve damage. Other causes include imbalance of minerals and electrolytes such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium, certain medications, and thyroid disease.
Gastroparesis is typically diagnosed through a nuclear medicine test called a gastric emptying study. A person will eat a small meal of solid or liquid food that contains a small amount of radioactive material. After, a scanner is placed over the stomach and monitors the amount of radioactivity in the stomach, which indicates how long it takes stomach contents to empty.
Treatment comprises of diet modification, controlling an underlying cause, symptom treatment, stimulation of muscle activity in the stomach, and maintaining adequate nutrition.