Delayed Stomach Emptying

Delayed stomach emptying is also known as gastroparesis. It is an annoying problem, which complicates many pathological conditions.


The gastroparesis is caused by disorders in of nervous system controlling stomach muscles. These muscles work independently on our will and ensure the transport of digested food towards the small intestine. These nerves are usually damaged in patients with polyneuropathies (diabetics, alcoholics, etc.) heavy smokers and patients with Parkinson's disease. In addition, the local nervous system may be injured during local abdominal surgery interventions. Disrupted stomach motility occurs even in scleroderma, which is an autoimmune disease of the connective tissue.


Impaired stomach motility leads to accumulation of food in the stomach that gets distended. The patient suffers from loss of appetite, frequent vomiting of poorly digested food, quick fullness during meals and frequent belching. Accumulated food decomposes and causes bad breath. Food returning to esophagus with gastric juice (gastroesophageal reflux) may be followed by signs of heartburn. However, the severity of gastroparesis often does not match the severity of subjective symptoms.


Gastroparesis can be diagnosed according to the above-mentioned symptoms by upper GI endoscopy and barium swallow supposing that there is found no organic obstacle (a tumor, a stricture, etc.). Barium swallow proves the presence of delayed emptying of the stomach and upper GI endoscopy confirms presence of undigested food accumulate in stomach. The examinations should not find any organic obstacle that blocks the emptying of the stomach.


The people should eat a well-digestible food in more frequent, but smaller portion. The muscle movements can be supported by prokinetic agents. When there is found the underlying cause, we must treat it (when possible).


Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Sources: basic text sources