By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Gastroparesis is characterized by delayed gastric emptying with no mechanical obstruction of the stomach. The common manifestations of this long term condition include nausea, vomiting, and early feeling of fullness into the meal, early satiety, bloating and abdominal pain. However, many patients may also show no symptoms of the condition until the disease is fairly advanced.
Rising number of gastroparesis-related hospitalizations
Mild gastroparesis usually does not lead to complications but severe cases may lead to life threatening complications. The number of gastroparesis-related hospitalizations has been increasing in the United States.
This is mainly due to the rise of diabetes numbers. Diabetes is one of the most important causes of gastroparesis.
Difficulties in estimating the prevalence of gastroparesis
Due to the wide range of symptoms of the condition as well as prevalence of no major symptoms in many individuals, it is difficult to know the exact number of sufferers.
The prevalence of gastroparesis is difficult to estimate thus due to relatively poor correlation of symptoms with gastric emptying.
To detect and confirm the presence of the condition several diagnostic tests need to be applied that makes estimation of the number of sufferers difficult as well.
Gastroparesis and diabetes
Studies have shown that 11–18% of patients with diabetes have upper gastrointestinal symptoms and when examined delayed gastric emptying was present in 50–65% of patients with diabetes.
Delayed gastric emptying was reported in 30 to 50% of type 1 diabetic patients and 15 to 30% of type 2 diabetics in some studies. However, dyspepsia is a common feature in diabetic patients and must be evaluated to rule out gastroparesis.
Complications of gastroparesis
Studies have shown that over 6 years follow-up 7% patients with gastroparesis had succumbed to complications and 22% needed long-term tube feeding or feeding via intravenous infusions or injections.
The latter method is one of the last alternatives and is termed total parenteral nutrition. These figures reveal that gastroparesis may be a severe condition if left untreated or unattended.
Gastroparesis in males and females
Studies have shown that females are more likely to get gastroparesis than males. The incidence and prevalence of gastroparesis in women was four times higher than in men.
Studies from North America show nearly 80% of sufferers as women. Several studies showed that female gender was associated with delayed gastric emptying in both functional dyspepsia and in patients with diabetes.
A connection with the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle when progesterone levels were increased compared with the follicular phase has also been found. The incidence rate of gastroparesis also rises with age.
How does gastroparesis compare to other gastrointestinal diseases?
There have been studies that reveal that incidence of definite gastroparesis ranged from 6.3 to 17.2 cases per 100,000 person-years. These numbers are similar to other important gastrointestinal disease such as inflammatory bowel disease. This means gastroparesis forms an important gastrointestinal disease.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)
Last Updated: Mar 24, 2013