Aims: Diabetic gastroparesis is a common condition occurring in some 30-50% of patients with long-term diabetes. Some studies have found a relationship between autonomic neuropathy and diabetic gastroparesis. In addition to autonomic neuropathy, acute changes in plasma glucose concentration can also affect gastric emptying. The objective was to examine the relationship between autonomic nerve function, glucose concentration, gastric emptying, and upper abdominal symptoms in Type 1 diabetic patients.
Methods: Gastric emptying of solids and liquids was measured with scintigraphy in 27 patients with longstanding Type 1 diabetes with upper abdominal symptoms. Autonomic nerve function was examined by standardized cardiovascular tests, and plasma glucose concentrations were measured during scintigraphy. Severity of abdominal symptoms and quality of life were explored by validated questionnaires.
Results: Seven patients (26%) had delayed gastric emptying of solids and three (11%) of liquids. Mean gastric half-emptying time of solids was 128 +/- 116 min and of liquids 42 +/- 30 min. Of the 26 patients undergoing tests, 16 (62%) had autonomic nerve dysfunction. Autonomic neuropathy score (1.6 +/- 1.7) correlated positively with the gastric emptying rate of solids (P = 0.006), a rate unrelated to symptom scores or plasma glucose concentrations during scintigraphy. Quality of life in patients with abdominal symptoms was lower than in the normal Finnish population.
Conclusions: Impaired gastric emptying of solids in patients with Type 1 diabetes is related to autonomic neuropathy, but not to actual glycaemic control. The upper abdominal symptoms observed in these patients cannot be explained, however, by impaired gastric emptying.