Gastroparesis in Children | Diagnosis & Treatment

How is gastroparesis diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects your child may have gastroparesis, they may order one or more of the following tests.

Gastric emptying scintigraphy

This nuclear medicine test uses an external scanner that tracks radioactive materials (eaten by your child in food) as they move through the digestive system. A four-hour emptying test has become the gold standard for diagnosis and is available at Boston Children's Hospital. Experts are developing even newer tests for the evaluation of gastric emptying.

Antroduodenal manometry

An antroduodenal manometry test places a small, flexible tube (catheter) through the nose into your child's stomach and small intestine to measure pressure. If your child has a gastrostomy (feeding tube), your physician may insert the catheter through that instead.

Wireless motility capsules

Your child swallows a capsule containing a tiny device that measures pH, temperature and pressure levels as it travels through the digestive system. The capsule transmits real-time data to a monitor worn by the patient.

How is gastroparesis treated?

The first step in treating children with gastroparesis is to address any underlying conditions and stop any medications that may contribute to the problem. Other treatment options may include:

  • Special diet: Your child's physician and dietician will develop a customized diet plan involving smaller portions and easily digestible foods. You will learn how to choose the best foods, plan meal times and balance eating with exercise.
  • Medications to control nausea: Drugs called antiemetics may decrease nausea and vomiting.
  • Medications to improve stomach emptying: Prokinetic drugs may improve stomach function in some children. Some medications like cisparide, domperidone or botulinum toxin injection to the pylorus are only available through specialized programs like those at Boston Children's Hospital. These medications should be prescribed and managed by physicians with pediatric motility expertise.
  • Pain control: We provide a multidisciplinary team to control pain and improve quality of life.
  • Gastric electrical stimulation: This treatment involves surgically implanting a neurostimulator in your child's stomach. The device delivers mild electrical pulses to the stomach muscle to control nausea and vomiting.
  • Surgical jejunostomy: In some children, gastroparesis is so severe that they cannot keep down any food or liquids. In these cases, a surgeon may need to place a jejunostomy (feeding tube) directly into your child's intestines so they get proper nutrition.