The use of paracetamol as tool to determine gastric emptying was evaluated in a cross over study. Twelve healthy volunteers were included and each of them consumed two low and two high caloric meals. Paracetamol was mixed with a liquid meal and administered by a nasogastric feeding tube. The post prandial paracetamol plasma concentration time curve in all participants and the paracetamol concentration in the stomach content in six participants were determined. It was found that after paracetamol has left the stomach, based on analysis of the stomach content, there was still a substantial rise in the plasma paracetamol concentration time curve. Moreover, the difference in gastric emptying between high and low caloric meals was missed using the plasma paracetamol concentration time curve. The latter curves indicate that (i) part of the paracetamol may leave the stomach much quicker than the meal and (ii) part of the paracetamol may be relatively slowly absorbed in the duodenum. This can be explained by the partition of the homogenous paracetamol-meal mixture in the stomach in an aqueous phase and a solid bolus. The aqueous phase leaves the stomach quickly and the paracetamol in this phase is quickly absorbed in the duodenum, giving rise to the relatively steep increase of the paracetamol concentration in the plasma. The bolus leaves the stomach relatively slowly, and encapsulation by the bolus results in relatively slow uptake of paracetamol from the bolus in the duodenum. These findings implicate that paracetamol is not an accurate post prandial marker for gastric emptying. The paracetamol concentration time curve rather illustrates the food-drug interaction on absorption, which is not only governed by gastric emptying.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01335503 Nederlands Trial Register NTR2780.