Definition of a gastric emptying abnormality in patients with anorexia nervosa

Dig Dis Sci. 1985 Aug;30(8):713-22. doi: 10.1007/BF01320484.


Upper gastrointestinal symptoms may be prominent in anorexia nervosa. This study is an investigation of the gastric emptying of solid and liquid meal components in 16 female patients (mean age 20.0 years, range 14-40 years) who met accepted psychiatric diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa. The results were compared with those of gastric emptying studies in 10 normal females of ideal body weight (mean age 25.4 years, range 20-35), 13 normal persons (12 males), and six patients (mean age 12 years, range 9-14 years) with weight loss (less than 90 percent ideal body weight) secondary to Crohn's disease with no psychiatric symptoms. A dual-isotope technique using chicken liver intracellularly labeled with technetium-99m (99mTc) bound to sulfur colloid as the solid-phase marker, and indium-111 (111In) -labeled water as the liquid-phase marker was used. Gastric emptying was monitored for 2 hr by gamma camera. In 13 of the 16 anorexia nervosa patients (80%), gastric emptying of solids was slower than the range in the two groups of normal subjects, and mean gastric emptying was significantly slower (P less than 0.05) than in the weight-loss patients. Liquid emptying (water) in anorexia nervosa was normal and similar to the control groups studied. In 11 of the anorexia nervosa patients with delayed gastric emptying, intramuscular metoclopramide, 10 mg, significantly (P less than 0.05) accelerated the mean gastric emptying from 60 through 120 min after the meal. We conclude that in anorexia nervosa patients who are symptomatic and seeking medical care: gastric emptying of solids is significantly delayed when compared with female subjects of similar age and normal body weight and with patients of less than 90% ideal body weight but without psychiatric disorder; these data are consistent with an antral motility disturbance, either primary or secondary; and metoclopramide, a gastric prokinetic agent, accelerates (delayed) gastric emptying.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / complications*
  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Gastric Emptying* / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Indium
  • Male
  • Metoclopramide / therapeutic use
  • Radioisotopes
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Stomach Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Stomach Diseases / drug therapy
  • Stomach Diseases / etiology*
  • Technetium Tc 99m Sulfur Colloid
  • Time Factors


  • Radioisotopes
  • Indium
  • Technetium Tc 99m Sulfur Colloid
  • Metoclopramide