How is gastroparesis treated?

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Matthew L. Brengman, MD
Surgery
There are many treatment options for gastroparesis. Most people can be managed with dietary changes. When symptoms cannot be managed through dietary changes, medication may be necessary.

Dietary changes include eating smaller, more frequent meals, and avoiding high fiber and high fat foods, as they naturally cause delays in stomach emptying. Your doctor can help tailor your diet to meet your nutritional needs while addressing the symptoms of the disease.

Common medication management for gastroparesis includes prokinetics (drugs that enhance gastrointestinal motility) and insulin changes for those with diabetes. Surgery is also an option in severe cases.

The combined therapies listed above commonly lead a person suffering from gastroparesis back to a more normal body function after treatment. These therapies have been shown to improve and stabilize nutrition, reduce hospitalizations and improve quality of life.
Gastroparesis is a condition in which the stomach doesn't empty properly. Says UCLA gastroenterologist Mark Ovsiowitz, MD, "For most people, food empties from the stomach within two to four hours after eating. But for those with gastroparesis, the stomach doesn’t empty properly, which may cause severe nausea, vomiting and other problems. It’s very important to conduct a diagnostic evaluation in order to rule out possible causes of a person's symptoms." He explains that once a diagnosis of gastroparesis is confirmed, people usually begin with nonsurgical interventions, such as reducing dietary fat and fiber, eating smaller, frequent meals, or taking a prescription medication to improve motility and aid stomach emptying.

For people who do not respond well to dietary changes or medication therapy, an implanted neurostimulator may be the best option. "While the neurostimulator does not cure gastroparesis, some studies have demonstrated that the device effectively reduces symptoms in approximately 80% of people," says UCLA surgeon Darryl Hiyama, MD.
Patricia Raymond, MD
Gastroenterology
We treat slow emptying due to a narrow pylorus by dilating the channel with inflatable balloon catheters through our scopes. A gastroparesis diagnosis leads to evaluation for diabetes, low thyroid function, or electrolyte imbalance. If nothing is found, we chalk your problem up to a likely viral infection which affected your stomach nerves and place you on a low-fiber diet and perhaps some medication to enhance the stomach emptying.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.