Background: The relative potency of prokinetics in patients with gastroparesis has not been systematically studied. This study, therefore, aimed to assess the available data and to compare the effects of different prokinetics on symptoms and gastric emptying rates in patients with gastroparesis.
Methods: A systematic search of the literature was performed, covering the period 1980 to March 1998. All identified studies were reviewed and the following data elements assessed: characteristics of study populations; sample sizes; treatment regimes; drug doses; study design; main outcome variables, and the validity of measurements.
Results: In 36 studies, 514 patients were treated with prokinetics p.o. Most studies had methodological limitations (i.e. nonvalidated measurement of symptoms or unblinded treatment). The mean improvement in gastric emptying and the reduction in the symptom score was higher in the open trial group than in patients treated double-blind. Overall, erythromycin seems to have had the strongest effect on gastric emptying as compared to domperidone, cisapride or metoclopramide. Concerning gastrointestinal symptoms, the symptom scores appeared to improve more during treatment with erythromycin than with domperidone, metoclopramide or cisapride.
Conclusions: Most of the available trials have methodological limitations; this limits the conclusions. However, the data suggest that the motilin-agonist erythromycin is superior with regard to the acceleration of gastric emptying, while both erythromycin and domperidone appear to be the most effective with regard to improvements in the symptom score. Additionally, there is a lack of association between changes in gastric emptying times and improvements in symptoms.