Diagnostic Assessment of Diabetic Gastroparesis

  1. Michael Camilleri
  1. Clinical Enteric Neuroscience Translational and Epidemiological Research (C.E.N.T.E.R.), College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
  1. Corresponding author: Michael Camilleri, camilleri.michael{at}

Gastroparesis is characterized by a constellation of upper gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms in association with delayed gastric emptying (GE) in the absence of mechanical outlet obstruction from the stomach. Cardinal symptoms are nausea, vomiting, early satiety or postprandial fullness, bloating, and abdominal or epigastric pain (1). Gastric retention may be asymptomatic in some, possibly due to afferent dysfunction in the setting of vagal denervation (2,3), and delayed GE may be associated with recurrent hypoglycemia in patients without upper GI symptoms (4,5). In these individuals, the term “delayed GE” is preferred to gastroparesis (1), although others have used terms such as “gastric hypoglycemia” (6). Thus, clinical manifestations of impaired GE may include anorexia, weight loss, malnutrition, phytobezoar formation, poorer quality-of-life, or impaired glycemic control due to erratic delivery of nutrients to the small bowel for absorption, and these may occur independent of factors such as age, gender, alcohol consumption, tobacco use, and diabetes type (79).

Upper GI symptoms in diabetic patients may result from accelerated GE, often in association with vagal neuropathy and impaired proximal gastric accommodation (10). In addition, upper GI symptoms in diabetic patients were not significantly different in those with delayed compared with rapid GE, except possibly for postprandial distress (P = 0.076 on univariate analysis) (11). Hence, it is essential to measure GE in patients with upper GI symptoms if the right treatment is to be selected, such as choice of a prokinetic agent in those with delayed GE. Similarly, one cannot assume that patients with known vagal neuropathy and upper GI symptoms have gastroparesis, because the measured GE may be normal, fast, or slow in such patients. The magnitude of GE delay may also influence diagnosis; there is overlap in the clinical diagnosis of functional dyspepsia and gastroparesis in patients …

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