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NORD is very grateful to Thomas Abell, MD, Professor of Medicine, University of Mississippi, for assistance in the preparation of this report.
Synonyms of Gastroparesis
- delayed gastric emptying
- gastric atony
- gastric dysmotility
- gastric stasis
- gastrointestinal autonomic neuropathy
- gastroparesis diabeticorum
- severe functional dyspepsia
- diabetic gastroparesis
- idiopathic gastroparesis
- post-surgical gastroparesis
Gastroparesis (abbreviated as GP) represents a clinical syndrome characterized by sluggish emptying of solid food (and more rarely, liquid nutrients) from the stomach, which causes persistent digestive symptoms especially nausea and primarily affects young to middle-aged women, but is also known to affect younger children and males. Diagnosis is made based upon a radiographic gastric emptying test. Diabetics and those acquiring gastroparesis for unknown (or, idiopathic) causes represent the two largest groups of gastroparetic patients; however, numerous etiologies (both rare and common) can lead to a gastroparesis syndrome.
Gastroparesis is also known as delayed gastric emptying and is an old term that does not adequately describe all the motor impairments that may occur within the gastroparetic stomach. Furthermore, there is no expert agreement on the use of the term, gastroparesis. Some specialists will reserve the term, gastroparesis, for grossly impaired emptying of the stomach while retaining the label of delayed gastric emptying, or functional dyspepsia (non-ulcer dyspepsia), for less pronounced evidence of impaired emptying. These terms are all very subjective. There is no scientific basis by which to separate functional dyspepsia from classical gastroparesis except by symptom intensity. In both conditions, there is significant overlap in treatment, symptomatology and underlying physiological disturbances of stomach function.
For the most part, the finding of delayed emptying (gastric stasis) provides a "marker" for a gastric motility problem. Regardless, the symptoms generated by the stomach dysmotility greatly impair quality of life for the vast majority of patients and disable about 1 in 10 patients with the condition.
While delayed emptying of the stomach is the clinical feature of gastroparesis, the relationship between the degree of delay in emptying and the intensity of digestive symptoms does not always match. For instance, some diabetics may exhibit pronounced gastric stasis yet suffer very little from the classical gastroparetic symptoms of: nausea, vomiting, reflux, abdominal pain, bloating, fullness, and loss of appetite. Rather, erratic blood-glucose control and life-threatening hypoglycemic episodes may be the only indication of diabetic gastroparesis. In another subset of patients (diabetic and non-diabetic) who suffer from disabling nausea that is to the degree that their ability to eat, sleep or carry out activities of daily living is disrupted gastric emptying may be normal, near normal, or intermittently delayed. In such cases, a gastric neuro-electrical dysfunction, or gastric dysrhythmia (commonly found associated with gastroparesis syndrome), may be at fault.
Therefore, these disorders of functional dyspepsia, gastric dysrhythms, and gastroparesis are all descriptive labels sharing similar symptoms and perhaps representing a similar entity of disordered gastric neuromuscular function. For this reason, a more encompassing term, gastropathy, can be used interchangeably with gastroparesis.
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