Gastroparesis or delayed gastric emptying is a rare disease that affects stomach motility and contractions. The stomach is a muscular pouch that actively contracts to breakdown food and propel food particles into intestine for digestion and absorption. Patients with gastroparesis lose this function because the stomach is “paralyzed” and undigested food accumulates in stomach for days and weeks.

As a result, gastroparesis patients struggle with daily nausea, bloating, vomiting, heartburn, stomach pain, and early satiety. This often results in weight loss and very poor quality of life.

Most gastroparesis cases are idiopathic (cause of disease is unknown). Diabetes is the most common known cause for gastroparesis. Vagus nerve injury, certain medications and diseases may also result in delayed gastric emptying.

The most common diagnostic modality for gastroparesis is gastric emptying study using scintigraphy. Patient lies under a scanning machine after ingesting a radioactive labeled meal. Machine detects isotope emptying from stomach into intestine. This allows us to measure how fast food is emptying from stomach. A scintigraphy gastric emptying study is currently the most accurate and most performed test to diagnose gastroparesis.

At Houston Gastroparesis Center, Dr. Darido also performs a Barium swallow to assess stomach size and check for any narrowing in stomach outlet also called pylorus. Upper endoscopy is performed to check for stomach erosions, ulcers and associated hiatal hernia.

Gastroparesis Treatment

Gastroparesis treatment depends on stage of disease. For mild gastroparesis, consuming multiple small meals throughout the day may be all what you need. You may use occasional antiemetic medications like Zofran to control nausea. Pro-kinetic medications may be added to promote gastric emptying and intestinal motility. For severe gastroparesis cases, also known as medically refractory gastroparesis, there are currently no medications that can effectively control symptoms. Indeed, there is no established treatment guideline for medically refractory gastroparesis. At Houston Heartburn and Reflux Center, Dr. Darido has developed a novel procedure that effectively promotes gastric emptying. The procedure, an antrum preserving longitudinal gastrectomy, has been offered to more than 50 patients so far with excellent results.

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