Although delayed gastric emptying is found in some patients with functional dyspepsia, there seems to be little relation between rate of emptying and symptoms. This study examined the hypothesis that food maldistribution rather than gastric stasis may equate to symptoms in such patients and used scintigraphic techniques to quantify the partition of gastric contents between proximal and distal stomach during gastric emptying. Eleven patients with functional dyspepsia characterised by chronic severe postprandial bloating without organic abnormality, and 12 healthy volunteers, ingested a standard meal labelled with technetium-99M (99mTc). Serial images of the gastric area in anterior and posterior projections were taken for 90 minutes, regions of interest for proximal, distal, and total stomach were defined, and activity time curves were derived from the geometric means of anterior and posterior counts. Total emptying in patients (median: 46 minutes; range: 30-76) was not significantly different from controls (45 minutes; 28-58) and only three showed delayed gastric emptying. In controls, food remained predominantly in the proximal half of the stomach after ingestion and then redistributed to the distal half. In the patients, however, initial activity in the proximal half after ingestion (48%; 40-65) was significantly lower (p < 0.05) than in controls (60%; 39-73) and distributed more fully to the distal half of the stomach with a peak distal activity (56%; 34-58), which was consistently higher than in controls (36%; 33-42) (p < 0.05). It is concluded that this subgroup of functional dyspepsia patients show abnormal intragastric distribution of food, independent of gastric emptying rate.
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