Gastric motor dysfunction and concomitant gastric stasis have been implicated in the pathogenesis of nonulcer dyspepsia, but a cause-and-effect relationship is not established. Essential dyspepsia refers to a subgroup of nonulcer dyspepsia patients who have no evidence of irritable bowel syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux, or pancreaticobiliary disease. In 32 patients with essential dyspepsia, and 32 randomly selected dyspepsia-free community controls of similar age and sex, we measured gastric emptying of solids using Tc99m-Sulphur Colloid in a fried egg sandwich. Subjects with neuromuscular or other diseases that may alter gastric emptying were excluded. Symptoms were assessed by a standard questionnaire. Data processing was carried out "blinded" to the subjects' clinical status. Female patients took significantly longer to empty half the initial stomach activity (mean 90 min) than female controls (mean, 73 min; p = 0.02). The rate of emptying at 25 min was also significantly less in female patients than in controls. Female and male controls, and male patients, had similar emptying times. Delayed emptying was not associated with the occurrence of postprandial pain, belching, or nausea; there was a trend for the half-time rate of emptying to be greater in patients with abdominal distention. While gastric emptying of solids is slightly delayed in females with essential dyspepsia as a group, this may not explain their symptoms.