Utility of wireless motility capsule and lactulose breath testing in the evaluation of patients with chronic functional bloating

BMJ Open Gastroenterol. 2016 Aug 18;3(1):e000110. doi: 10.1136/bmjgast-2016-000110. eCollection 2016.


Background: The precise aetiology of chronic bloating remains poorly understood and underlying gastroparesis, small bowel bacterial overgrowth and colonic inertia may, individually or collectively, play a role.

Aims: In this retrospective cohort analysis of symptomatic patients with chronic persistent bloating, we determined the clinical utility of wireless motility capsule and lactulose breath test in further defining the underlying aetiology for functional bloating.

Methods: Consecutive patients with chronic bloating underwent clinical assessment, wireless motility capsule testing and lactulose breath testing using standard protocols.

Results: 52 patients qualified for inclusion in this analysis, fulfilling Rome III criteria for functional bloating. Most patients (54%) had an abnormal wireless motility capsule study; of those, 11.5% had evidence of gastroparesis, 7.7% had small bowel transit delay, 15.8% had colonic inertia, 3.8% had delayed gastric and small bowel transit, 5.6% had combined gastric and colonic transit delay, 3.8% had delayed small bowel and colonic transit, and 5.6% had delayed gastric, small bowel and colon transit times. Using clinical questionnaires the median scores for bloating, constipation and eructation were not significantly different. Neither constipation nor eructation was specific to gastroparesis or colonic inertia but bloating was numerically more prevalent and severe in patients with delayed small bowel transit. 40% of patients had positive lactulose breath test but had no distinguishing clinical characteristics.

Conclusions: Chronic functional bloating may reflect underlying gastroparesis, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or colonic inertia. Wireless motility capsule and lactulose breath test are useful in the assessment of patients with bloating and should be considered during evaluation.