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Gastric Emptying Scan

Gastric Emptying Scan

A gastric emptying scan is an imaging test. It measures how quickly food travels from the stomach into the small bowel (intestine). During the test, you're given a meal to eat that contains a small amount of radioactive substance (tracer). Then scans of the stomach are done. The tracer shows up clearly on the scans and tracks the movement of the food through your stomach. This test is most often needed if you have symptoms that suggest a motility problem. Motility refers to the movement of the muscles in the digestive tract. The test takes about 5 hours.

Before the Test

  • Let your doctor know of any medications you're taking. This includes vitamins, herbs, and over-the-counter medications. Certain medications may need to be stopped for a time in the days before the test.

  • Don't eat or drink anything starting from 6 hours before the test.

  • Follow any other instructions given by your doctor.

Let the Technologist Know

For your safety, let the technologist know if you:

  • Are taking any medications.

  • Had recent x-rays or tests involving other substances, such as barium.

  • Have current symptoms of nausea or vomiting.

  • Had recent surgery.

  • Have other health problems, such as diabetes.

  • Have any allergies.

  • Are pregnant or may be pregnant.

  • Are breastfeeding.

During the Test

A gastric emptying scan takes place in a hospital. It is performed by a technologist trained in nuclear medicine or radiology.

  • You'll be given a meal to eat. This can be a solid food, such as eggs, or a liquid, such as water. Both the food and drink contain a small amount of tracer. The tracer has no flavor. If you're allergic to the food to be given, another type of food is used instead.

  • After you finish the meal, you'll be asked to lie on your back on an exam table.

  • Pictures of your stomach are then taken with a machine called a scanner. You must lie still during this process. The scanner uses technology that can detect the amount of tracer in the stomach. As food is emptied from the stomach, the amount of tracer decreases. This allows the technologist to measure the rate at which food is leaving the stomach.

  • More pictures of your stomach are taken at different times. This usually occurs after 1, 2, and 4 hours of eating the meal. You can leave the room between the times the pictures are taken. But do not eat or drink anything or perform any strenuous activities during this period.

  • Once the last set of pictures has been taken, the test is complete.

After the Test

You can go home shortly after the test. A nuclear medicine doctor or radiologist will go over the test results with your doctor. Your doctor will then review the test results with you. This is likely within a few days of the test.

Risks and Possible Complications of This Test

There is a small amount of radiation exposure from the tracer. This amount is not considered to be dangerous. But it can carry certain risks if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Be sure to talk to your doctor about these risks before you have the study.

For top-quality, up-to-date care for gastrointestinal problems, trust the board-certified, experienced GI specialists trusted by thousands of patients and their doctors for nearly 30 years. Call Gastroenterology Consultants at (281) 481-9400 or fill out our online Request an Appointment form to schedule your consultation with us.

Gastroenterology Consultants


444 FM 1959, Suite A,
Houston, TX 77034
Direct Phone: 281-481-9400

St. John

2060 Space Park Drive, Suite 306
Nassau Bay, TX 77058
Direct Phone: 281-892-2460

Clear Lake

250 Blossom Street, Suite 210 Webster, TX 77598
Direct Phone: 281-316-1119


4211 Fairmont Parkway
Pasadena, TX 77504
Direct Phone: 832-456-8434


15015 Kirby Dr. Ste.200A
Pearland, TX 77047
Direct Phone: 713-343-6360

League City

2555 S. Gulf Freeway Ste. 500
League City, TX 77573
Direct Phone: 281-481-9400

Gastroenterology Consultants is a leader in advanced, comprehensive gastrointestinal care. We specialize in up-to-date gastrointestinal care, which includes screening and treatment for colon cancer, heartburn and acid reflux, esophageal disorders and difficulty swallowing, peptic ulcers, H. pylori, gallstones and other gallbladder disorders, rectal bleeding and hemorrhoids, malabsorption and celiac disease, liver diseases - hepatitis C, hepatitis B, cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, hepatoma and liver cancer, abdominal pain, noncardiac chest pain, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, anemia, nausea and vomiting, gas and bloating and lactose intolerance

Gastroenterology Consultants also offers colonoscopy screening for colorectal cancer, EGD & capsule endoscopy small-bowel, endoscopic ultrasound, Bravo 48-hour pH monitoring, H. pylori breath testing, esophageal manometry and impedance testing, hemorrhoid band ligation, esophageal dilatation, advanced therapeutic ERCP, Biologic therapy, treatment of Barrett's esophagus, common bile duct stones and endoscopic mucosal resection.