Rapid gastric emptying is more common than gastroparesis in patients with autonomic dysfunction

Am J Gastroenterol. 2007 Mar;102(3):618-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2006.00946.x.


Objectives: Autonomic dysfunction is associated with a wide variety of gastrointestinal symptoms. It is unclear how many patients with autonomic dysfunction have slow or rapid gastric emptying. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of rapid and delayed solid phase gastric emptying in patients with autonomic dysfunction referred for evaluation of gastrointestinal symptoms and the association of emptying rate with clinical symptoms.

Methods: Retrospective review of all patients with autonomic dysfunction who had a gastric emptying test from January, 1996 to March, 2005. Demographic data, clinical symptoms, composite autonomic scoring scale (CASS) score, and gastric emptying parameters were analyzed.

Results: Sixty-one subjects (women 49, age 42 [16-74] yr) with autonomic dysfunction were reviewed. Patients had mild-to-moderate (mean CASS score 3) autonomic dysfunction. Twenty-seven, 17, and 17 patients had rapid, normal, and delayed gastric emptying t(1/2), respectively. In addition, 10 patients had initially rapid emptying in phase 1, with subsequent slowing in phase 2 to produce an overall normal or delayed t(1/2). There was no difference in demographic data or CASS score among the three groups. More patients with initial or overall rapid emptying had diarrhea (70%) compared to patients with normal (33%) or delayed (33%) emptying (P= 0.018).

Conclusions: Unexpectedly, more patients with autonomic dysfunction have rapid rather than delayed gastric emptying. The presence of diarrhea in patients with autonomic symptoms should prompt consideration for the presence of rapid gastric emptying. Conversely, the finding of rapid gastric emptying in patients with gastrointestinal symptoms should prompt consideration for the presence of underlying autonomic dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autonomic Nervous System Diseases / complications*
  • Autonomic Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Gastric Emptying / physiology*
  • Gastroparesis / etiology
  • Gastroparesis / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index