Measurement of gastrointestinal transit

Dig Dis Sci. 2005 Jun;50(6):989-1004. doi: 10.1007/s10620-005-2694-6.


An abnormality in transit is commonly considered to account for unexplained gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms. Since the symptoms of delayed transit overlap with those of accelerated transit, direct measurement of GI transit is needed to establish an accurate diagnosis. Similarly, since symptoms originating from one part of the gut may overlap with symptoms from another, localizing transit abnormality to one organ vs. another using direct measurement is an important part of diagnostic evaluations. Consequently, noninvasive tests of GI transit should be done early in the evaluation to guide therapy. We now have tools to measure transit accurately; results of transit tests often depend on the conditions selected for the test, so test results will match clinical expectations most closely when test conditions are selected to reproduce the circumstances for symptom production. This review describes the most commonly used methods for the measurement of GI transit including the gastric emptying test for some dyspeptic symptoms, small bowel transit test for dyspeptic symptoms and diarrhea, colonic transit test for constipation, and factors that influence the result of these studies. As we make progress in our understanding of the pathophysiology of transit disorders, the clinical usefulness of these diagnostic tests will be further enhanced.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breath Tests / methods
  • Constipation / diagnosis
  • Diarrhea / diagnosis
  • Dyspepsia / diagnosis
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Transit / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Radionuclide Imaging / methods