Overview

Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is a disorder affecting the nerves and muscles of the stomach, resulting in a paralyzed stomach that cannot perform its normal function. Normally, your stomach contracts slowly to squeeze solid food into small particles, which are then pushed into the small bowel. With gastroparesis, food is not moved into the small bowel and remains in the stomach for much longer than usual. When food lingers too long in the stomach, problems such as bacterial overgrowth can develop in the small bowel. Also, the food can harden into solid masses called bezoars that may cause nausea, vomiting and an obstruction in the stomach.

Although the cause of gastroparesis is unknown in more than half of patients, type 1 diabetes is the most common cause. It also can develop in people with type 2 diabetes, although this is less common. Other causes of gastroparesis include:

  • Postviral syndromes
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Surgery on the stomach or vagus nerve, a nerve that runs from the brain to the abdomen
  • Medications, particularly anticholinergics and narcotics, which slow contractions in the intestine
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease, although this is rare
  • Smooth muscle disorders such as amyloidosis and scleroderma
  • Nervous system diseases, including abdominal migraine and Parkinson's disease

Our Approach to Gastroparesis

UCSF delivers state-of-the-art, comprehensive care for all gastrointestinal conditions, including gastroparesis. Our surgeons helped pioneer minimally invasive gastrointestinal surgery, which has significant benefits for patients compared with traditional open surgery, including a faster recovery, lower risk of infection, and less pain and scarring.

Several treatments are available for gastroparesis, and our recommendations depend on both the patient's symptoms and the underlying cause of the delayed gastric emptying. Options range from dietary changes to surgery that widens the valve connecting the stomach and small intestines, allowing the stomach to empty faster. Some patients may be candidates for an implantable device that reduces nausea and vomiting by sending mild electrical pulses to the muscles and nerves of the lower stomach.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Best hospital in Northern California

  • Best in Northern California for gastroenterology and GI surgery

  • Ranked No. 11 in the nation for gastroenterology and GI surgery

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.

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