If your health care provider believes you may have gastroparesis, you will need certain exams and tests to be sure. You should expect to be asked questions about your health history, your symptoms, risk factors and family history of disease. Understanding your background will help your provider make a diagnosis.
Your provider may also give you a physical exam that includes:
- Checking your blood pressure, heart rate and temperature
- Gently pressing on different parts of your abdomen to check for pain, swelling or tenderness
- Looking for signs of dehydration or malnutrition
- Listening to sounds in your intestines or stomach
Your doctor will likely order tests to gather more information about how your gastrointestinal system is working before treating gastroparesis. Some tests may also rule out other conditions with similar symptoms.
Blood samples may show signs of dehydration, inflammation, infection or malnutrition.
During this test, you’ll eat a meal that contains a substance that is absorbed into the intestines and detected in your breath. After you eat, the health care provider will collect samples of your breath over a few hours. These measurements will give your provider more information about how fast your stomach works.
During this test, you eat a bland meal with a small amount of radioactive material added to the food. After you eat, a camera outside your body follows the radioactive material as it moves through your body to see how fast or slow your stomach empties. This test is also called gastric emptying scintigraphy.
During this procedure, a health care provider will pass a small wand over the skin on your abdomen. The wand uses sound waves to create an image of your stomach and intestines and shows blockages or other abnormalities.
This test looks at the lining of your upper GI tract, which includes your esophagus, stomach and the upper part of your intestines. You may be put under light sedation before the doctor passes a thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end called an endoscope into your mouth and down your esophagus. This instrument is guided into your GI tract to check for blockages, damage, inflammation, narrow areas or other problems that may be causing your symptoms.
For an upper GI series, you will drink a chalky liquid called barium which is slightly radioactive. You will first drink the barium while standing or sitting in front of an X-ray machine and then lie on an X-ray table to take pictures of the barium moving through your digestive system. Your provider may also have you swallow a second substance that causes extra gas in your stomach. This gas helps the provider get a clearer picture of the lining of your upper GI tract.
You may be asked to provide a urine sample to look for signs of diabetes, dehydration, infection or kidney problems.
For this test, you will swallow a small electronic device called a SmartPill. As it moves through your body, the SmartPill sends signals to a receiver that you wear around your neck or on your belt. Your health care provider uses the information collected to see how fast your stomach is emptying and how quickly food moves through your intestines.