Objective: To establish the relation between vagus nerve dysfunction, gastric emptying, and antireflux surgery.
Summary background data: Delayed gastric emptying occurs in up to 40% of reflux patients. After antireflux surgery, gastric emptying becomes normal or is even accelerated. Occasionally, severe gastric stasis is found and is associated with a negative outcome of the antireflux procedure. It has been suggested that injury to the vagus nerve could be the cause of this delayed emptying.
Methods: We evaluated in a prospective study gastric emptying of solids and vagus nerve function (pancreatic polypeptide response to hypoglycemia) before and after surgery in 41 patients (22 women; age 43 +/- 1.6 years) who underwent laparoscopic hemifundoplication.
Results: All patients had relief of reflux symptoms varying from adequate (n = 8) to complete relief (n = 33). Gastric emptying of solids increased significantly (P < 0.001) after operation: lag phase from 19 +/- 2 to 10 +/- 1 minute, emptying rate (%/h) from 37 +/- 2 to 48 +/- 5 and half emptying time from 110 +/- 8 to 81 +/- 4 minutes. Gastric emptying improved to a similar extent in patients with delayed and normal preoperative gastric emptying. Postoperative signs of vagus nerve damage (PP peak < 47pmol/L) were present in 4 patients (10%). In these 4 patients gastric emptying both before and after operation did not differ from patients with normal vagus nerve function. In fact, none of the 41 patients had severely delayed emptying after laparoscopic hemifundoplication.
Conclusions: Laparoscopic hemifundoplication affects vagus nerve integrity in 10% of patients, but this does not lead to a delay in gastric emptying. In fact, gastric emptying improved significantly after fundoplication.