Whole gut transit scintigraphy in the clinical evaluation of patients with upper and lower gastrointestinal symptoms

Am J Gastroenterol. 2000 Oct;95(10):2838-47. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2000.03195.x.


Objective: In a single noninvasive, quantitative test, whole gut transit scintigraphy (WGTS) measures gastric emptying (GE), small bowel transit (SBT), and colonic transit (CT). The aim of this study was to investigate the clinical utility of WGTS in patients with functional gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms.

Methods: A total of 108 patients with either dyspeptic upper GI symptoms (n = 35) or constipation (n = 73) underwent WGTS. Patients consumed a meal of 99 m-Tc egg sandwich with 111-In DTPA in water. They were imaged every 30 min for 6 h to measure GE and SBT, and at 24, 48, and 72 h to measure CT.

Results: Of 108 studies, 104 were analyzable. In patients with upper GI symptoms, 14/35 (40%) had delayed GE of solids, 4/35 (11%) delayed SBT, and 11/35 (31%) delayed CT. Of those with constipation, 13/69 (19%) had delayed GE, 5/69 (7%) delayed SBT, and 43/69 (65%) delayed CT. WGTS changed the initial clinical diagnosis in 47/104 (45%) and altered patient management in 70/104 (67%) of the patients.

Conclusions: Transit abnormalities of the upper GI tract and colon are common in patients with functional GI symptoms. Patients with upper GI symptoms frequently have delayed GE, whereas those with constipation tend to have predominantly delayed CT. In many patients with functional GI symptoms, there was evidence of a diffuse GI motility disorder. Whole gut transit scintigraphy is a simple, clinically useful test, as it frequently leads to a change in diagnosis and, therefore, patient management.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Constipation / diagnostic imaging*
  • Constipation / etiology
  • Constipation / physiopathology
  • Dyspepsia / diagnostic imaging*
  • Dyspepsia / etiology
  • Dyspepsia / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Gastric Emptying / physiology
  • Gastrointestinal Transit / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Indium Radioisotopes
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pentetic Acid
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Indium Radioisotopes
  • Pentetic Acid