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A gastric emptying scan is a test that shows how quickly food leaves your stomach.
This type of test is called a nuclear scanning test. A radioactive tracer is added to a solid meal that you eat. This tracer shows up on pictures taken by an external camera. That allows your doctor to see food in your stomach and to watch as it leaves the stomach.
A gastric emptying scan is done to see if food moves through the stomach as it should and at the right speed. It can be used to see if a digestive problem like gastroparesis is causing the stomach to retain food.
To prepare for this test:
The test may take about 3 to 4 hours.
The scan doesn't cause any pain. It doesn't feel any different from eating a normal meal.
Anytime you're exposed to radiation, there's a small chance of damage to cells or tissue. That's the case even with the low-level radioactive tracer used for this test. But the chance of damage is very low compared with the benefits of the test.
The camera doesn't produce any radiation. That means you aren't exposed to any more radiation while the scan is being done.
Most of the tracer will leave your body through your urine or stool within a day. So be sure to flush the toilet right after you use it, and wash your hands well with soap and water. The amount of radiation in the tracer is very small. This means it isn't a risk for people to be around you after the test.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.
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Current as of: August 11, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Myo Min Han MD - Nuclear Medicine & Brian D. O'Brien MD - Internal Medicine
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