Diagnosis of Gastroparesis
The diagnosis of gastroparesis is confirmed through one or more of the following tests.
- Barium x ray. After fasting for 12 hours, you will drink a thick liquid called barium, which coats the inside of the stomach, making it show up on the x ray. Normally, the stomach will be empty of all
food after 12 hours of fasting. If the x ray shows food in the stomach,
gastroparesis is likely. If the x ray shows an empty stomach but the
doctor still suspects that you have delayed emptying, you may need to
repeat the test another day. On any one day, a person with gastroparesis
may digest a meal normally, giving a falsely normal test result. If
you have diabetes, your doctor may have special instructions about fasting.
- Barium beefsteak meal. You will eat a meal that contains barium, thus allowing the radiologist to watch your stomach as it digests the meal. The amount of time it takes for the barium meal to be digested and leave the stomach gives the doctor an idea of how well the stomach is working. This test can help detect emptying problems that do not
show up on the liquid barium x ray. In fact, people who have diabetes-related gastroparesis often digest fluid normally, so the barium beefsteak meal can be more useful.
- Radioisotope gastric-emptying scan. You will eat food that contains a radioisotope, a slightly radioactive substance that will
show up on the scan. The dose of radiation from the radioisotope is small and not dangerous. After eating, you will lie under a machine that detects the radioisotope and shows an image of the food in the stomach and how quickly it leaves the stomach. Gastroparesis is diagnosed if more than half of the food remains in the stomach after 2 hours.
- Gastric manometry. This test measures electrical and muscular activity in the stomach. The doctor passes a thin tube down the throat into the stomach. The tube contains a wire that takes measurements of the stomach's electrical and muscular activity as it digests liquids
and solid food. The measurements show how the stomach is working and whether there is any delay in digestion.
- Blood tests. The doctor may also order laboratory tests to check blood counts and to measure chemical and electrolyte levels.
To rule out causes of gastroparesis other than diabetes, the doctor may do an upper endoscopy or an ultrasound.
- Upper endoscopy. After giving you a sedative, the doctor passes a long, thin tube called an endoscope through the mouth and gently guides it down the esophagus into the stomach. Through the endoscope, the doctor can look at the lining of the stomach to check for any abnormalities.
- Ultrasound. To rule out gallbladder disease or pancreatitis as a source of the problem, you may have an ultrasound test, which uses harmless sound waves to outline and define the shape of the gallbladder and pancreas.