Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is a digestive disorder in which the stomach muscles don’t contract normally, causing the stomach to take too long to empty its contents. It commonly presents as nausea, vomiting or bloating after eating. If food remains in the stomach for an extended period, bacteria may form. The food may also harden into solid masses, called bezoars, that cause nausea, vomiting and obstructions that can block the passage of food into the small intestine. Also referred to as delayed gastric emptying, gastroparesis can negatively affect nutrition and blood sugar levels. It is most common in people with diabetes. Learn more about gastroparesis, its risks and causes.

At Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), our board certified general and gastrointestinal surgeons offer the most innovative and effective treatment for patients with gastroparesis. We perform the latest and most effective minimally invasive surgery to help improve this condition. We collaborate with our gastroenterology colleagues to identify the best treatment modality for patients with this challenging condition.

Gastroparesis Topics

Treatment for Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is usually a chronic condition. The goal of treatment is to help patients manage symptoms. Treatment depends on the severity of gastroparesis symptoms and often involves a combination of surgical procedures and non-surgical approaches.

Surgical Treatment

Brigham and Women’s Hospital surgeons work closely with our gastrointestinal colleagues to identify and offer surgical options for patients with severe gastroparesis. In special circumstances, patients may require these surgical procedures:

  • Gastrostomy venting prevents excess air and fluid from building up in the stomach.
  • Pyloroplasty surgery widens the lower part of the stomach.
  • Gastrojejunostomy connects the stomach to the jejunum part of the small intestine.
  • Gastrectomy is the surgical removal of part or the whole stomach.
  • Jejunostomy involves inserting a feeding tube for nutrients and medications.
  • Gastric bypass surgery

Non-Surgical Treatment

People with mild or moderate symptoms of gastroparesis may benefit from dietary and lifestyle changes and medication:

  • Dietary modifications consists of eating six small meals a day rather than three large ones. Some surgeons recommend several liquid meals a day until blood glucose levels and gastroparesis are stable. Avoid fatty and high-fiber foods that can slow digestion and be difficult to digest.
  • Medications that make the stomach muscle contract are recommended. Botulinum toxin has been shown to improve symptoms when injected directly into the pyloric sphincter.
What You Should Expect

You will receive a thorough diagnostic examination to evaluate if you have gastroparesis and determine what course of treatment is needed. Careful monitoring and the involvement of an experienced general and gastrointestinal surgeon are important to the successful outcome for patients with stomach conditions.

If you are having surgery or a procedure, you will likely be scheduled for a visit to the Weiner Center for Preoperative Evaluation for pre-operative information and tests.

The day of surgery, you will be taken care of in the operating room by surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses who specialize in gastrointestinal surgery. After surgery you will go to the post-surgical care unit where you will receive comprehensive care by an experienced surgical and nursing staff.

Learn more about your hospital stay and returning home.

Multidisciplinary Care

Brigham and Women’s Hospital provides a multidisciplinary approach to patient care, collaborating with colleagues who have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating gastroparesis and stomach conditions. In addition, patients have full access to BWH’s world-renowned academic medical community with its diverse specialists and state-of-the-art facilities.

Resources

Go to our health library to learn more about gastroparesis.

Visit the Kessler Health Education Library in the Bretholtz Center for Patients and Families to access computers and knowledgeable staff.

Visit the Weiner Center for Preoperative Evaluation.

Access a complete directory of patient and family services.

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