Gastroparesis

  • Medical Author:
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: Bhupinder Anand, MD
woman with abdominal pain

What is the prognosis (long-term outcome) for patients with gastroparesis?

If gastroparesis is caused by a reversible problem, for example pancreatitis, the condition will subside when the underlying problem resolves. In some people with diabetes, better control of their blood sugar will improve emptying of the stomach. If there is no reversible cause, gastroparesis rarely resolves. In fact, it may become worse with time. Gastroparesis is particularly difficult to treat when there are accompanying motility disorders of the muscles of the small intestine.

What is new in gastroparesis?

The newest experimental treatment for gastroparesis is injection of botulinum toxin into the pylorus. The pylorus is the narrow channel through which food passes from the stomach to the duodenum. The pylorus, like the stomach, is a muscular organ. The pylorus is closed most of the time due to continuous contraction of the pyloric muscle. Intermittently it opens and allows secretions from the stomach to enter the small intestine. After meals, the pylorus is very important for metering the emptying of the stomach. In gastroparesis, although the muscles of the stomach are weak all of the time, the muscle of the pylorus remains strong and contracted and the pylorus relatively closed. It was hypothesized that if the strength of the pyloric muscle was reduced, food might empty from the stomach more readily. Although the initial results were good, subsequent studies have not confirmed the benefit of botulinum toxin. Although the initial results with botulinium toxin were good, subsequent studies have not confirmed the benefit. Its use should be considered experimental.

Although a surgical procedure, termed pyloroplasty, to enlarge the pylorus has been used in the past to treat problems with emptying of the stomach, it is major surgery and has had mixed results with respect to its efficacy.

Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine

REFERENCE: Bortolotti, M. Gastric electrical stimulation for gastroparesis: A goal greatly pursued, but not yet attained. World J Gastroenterol. 2011 January 21; 17(3): 273–282.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/23/2016

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