Diabetic Gastroparesis


Article Author:
Ganesh Aswath
Lisa Foris
Ashwini Ashwath


Article Editor:
Krunal Patel


Editors In Chief:
Kranthi Sitammagari
Mayank Singhal


Managing Editors:
Avais Raja
Orawan Chaigasame
Carrie Smith
Abdul Waheed
Khalid Alsayouri
Trevor Nezwek
Radia Jamil
Patrick Le
Anoosh Zafar Gondal
Saad Nazir
William Gossman
Hassam Zulfiqar
Hussain Sajjad
Steve Bhimji
Muhammad Hashmi
John Shell
Matthew Varacallo
Heba Mahdy
Ahmad Malik
Sarosh Vaqar
Mark Pellegrini
James Hughes
Beata Beatty
Beenish Sohail
Nazia Sadiq
Hajira Basit
Phillip Hynes


Updated:
8/14/2019 9:01:20 AM

Introduction

Gastroparesis is defined by objective delaying of gastric emptying without any evidence of mechanical obstruction. Diabetic gastroparesis is a potential complication that occurs in the setting of poorly controlled diabetes, resulting from dysfunction in the coordination and function of the autonomic nervous system, neurons and specialized pacemaker cells (interstitial cells of Cajal, ICC) of the stomach and intestine, and the smooth muscle cells of the gastrointestinal tract.[1][2][3][4]

Etiology

Hyperglycemia (blood glucose greater than 200 mg/dL), commonly seen in the setting of poorly controlled diabetes, has been associated with diabetic gastroparesis that occurs as a result of neuropathy in the setting of chronic hyperglycemia and does not resolve with improved glycemic control. Acute hyperglycemia, on the other hand, though it can also result in delayed gastric emptying, is often reversible with improved glycemic control.[5][6][7]

Gastric emptying requires coordination of fundal tone and antral phasic contraction with simultaneous inhibition of pyloric and duodenal contractions. This coordination also requires interactions between the enteric and autonomic nervous systems, smooth muscle cells, and the specialized pacemaker cells (ICC) of the stomach. The gastric motor dysfunction that is encountered in the setting of diabetes may occur as a result of autonomic neuropathy (both sympathetic and parasympathetic), enteric neuropathy (both excitatory and inhibitory neurons), ICC abnormalities (intrinsic neuropathy), acute blood glucose fluctuations, use of incretin-based medications, or psychosomatic factors.  As a result, most diabetic patients tend to have dysfunction at multiple points in the process of gastric emptying. This includes abnormal postprandial proximal gastric accommodation and contraction, as well as abnormalities in antral motor function.

Epidemiology

Although idiopathic gastroparesis is the most common form of gastroparesis, diabetes is the most common disease associated with the condition. Upper gastrointestinal symptoms are reported in 11% to 18% of diabetic patients, the majority of which are associated with delayed gastric emptying. Gastroparesis is seen in approximately 4.8% of individuals with type 1 diabetes, 1% of those with type 2 diabetes, and 0.1% of those without diabetes. Although there is a stronger association between type 1 diabetes and gastroparesis, the incidence of type 2 diabetes is much greater, and therefore, gastroparesis associated with type 2 diabetes is seen more frequently. Additionally, incretin mimetics are used to treat type 2 diabetic patients, and these medications pose an additional risk factor for developing gastroparesis.[8]

Signs and symptoms of delayed gastric emptying are seen more frequently in individuals with type 1 versus type 2 diabetes, and typically in those patients who have had the disorder for at least five years. It has been observed that gastroparesis typically occurs in patients with a diagnosis of diabetes of at least ten years, and therefore seen more commonly in older individuals (with type 2 diabetes).

Pathophysiology

Diabetic gastroparesis occurs as a result of dysfunction in the autonomic and enteric nervous systems. Chronically high levels of blood glucose (or inefficient glucose uptake) leads to neuronal damage resulting in abnormal myenteric neurotransmission (e.g., vagus nerve), impaired inhibitory (nitric oxide) neuronal function, and dysfunctional smooth muscle and pacemaker (interstitial cells of Cajal) cells. Altogether, this dysfunction results in a combination of fewer contractions of the antrum, uncoordinated antro-duodenal contractions, and pyloric spasms ultimately resulting in delayed gastric emptying (gastroparesis).

Delayed gastric emptying in diabetic patients, particularly of solids, may also occur in the setting of abnormal small bowel motility which is thought to occur by a similar mechanism as that which is described in the stomach. Some diabetic patients may additionally experience changes in gastric compliance, both increased or decreased, which may also contribute to delayed gastric emptying.[9]

In addition to this, serum (postprandial) glucose levels have a direct relationship with gastric emptying. In the setting of diabetic autonomic neuropathy, acute hyperglycemia stimulates gastric electrical activity.  In diabetic patients (without neuropathy) and healthy controls, acute hyperglycemia will instead relax the proximal stomach, and suppress gastric electrical activity (e.g., reduced the frequency, propagation, and contraction of the antrum) in both fasting and post-prandial conditions, thereby slowing gastric emptying.

Acute hyperglycemia has also been associated with increased sensitivity in the gastrointestinal tract. This may be responsible for the postprandial dyspepsia (e.g., early satiety, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, bloating and pain) frequently experienced by patients with diabetic gastroparesis.

Carbohydrate absorption is highly dependent on the speed of gastric emptying through the release of peptides such as glucagon-like peptide-1 and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide in which slower gastric emptying results in higher level of carbohydrate absorption. Therefore, a higher serum glucose level as a result of delayed gastric emptying can itself lead to worsening of gastroparesis.

History and Physical

The most common symptoms associated with gastroparesis include nausea, vomiting of undigested food, early satiety, bloating of the abdomen, and abdominal pain. In some cases, gastroparesis may also be associated with heartburn, and in severe cases, weight loss.

Factors that may trigger an exacerbation of diabetic gastroparesis include uncontrolled blood glucose levels, medication noncompliance or intolerance, adrenal insufficiency, or infection.

Evaluation

Diabetic gastroparesis is usually suspected based on clinical signs and symptoms, once other potential causes of symptoms have been excluded. Diagnostic evaluation involves scintigraphy (e.g., measuring the rate of emptying of solids) showing delayed gastric emptying, with obstruction (e.g., in the stomach or small intestine) ruled out by endoscopy or imaging (e.g., computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging).

Treatment / Management

Treatment of diabetic gastroparesis is aimed at alleviating the associated symptoms and replenishing electrolytes, nutrition, and hydration. [10][11] Modalities typically include correction of blood glucose levels (in other words, improved glycemic control), treatment with antiemetics or prokinetics, and modifications to diet. If a patient is on a regimen of incretin-based diabetic therapy (for example, pramlintide or GLP-1 analogs). These medications should be discontinued as they are also known to slow gastric emptying.[10]

Frequently used medications include erythromycin (macrolide antibiotic associated with increased gastrointestinal motility) and metoclopramide (antiemetic and prokinetic). Miralax (polyethylene glycol 3350) may additionally be used to provide relief from severe constipation. Pain relief should be achieved through the use of non-narcotic medications, as narcotics are also known to delay gastric emptying.[11][12]

Patients who continue to experience symptoms of gastroparesis despite medical therapy may be candidates for gastric electrical stimulation (GES) wherein an electrical device is implanted into the abdomen. It functions to deliver electrical impulses to both the smooth muscles and the neurons innervating the lower stomach. Gastric electrical stimulation has been shown to decrease symptoms of nausea and vomiting in patients with a history of gastroparesis. 

Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes

Management of diabetic gastroparesis is extremely challenging and is best done with a multidisciplinary team that includes an internist, endocrinologist, diabetic nurse, primary care provider and a gastroenterologist.

Treatment of diabetic gastroparesis is aimed at alleviating the associated symptoms and replenishing electrolytes, nutrition, and hydration.

Frequently used medications include erythromycin (macrolide antibiotic associated with increased gastrointestinal motility) and metoclopramide (antiemetic and prokinetic) and Miralax (polyethylene glycol 3350) may additionally be used to provide relief from severe constipation.

Patients who continue to experience symptoms of gastroparesis despite medical therapy may be candidates for gastric electrical stimulation (GES) wherein an electrical device is implanted into the abdomen.

Unfortunately, no treatment works reliably or consistently. Once the condition has been diagnosed it is progressive and imparts a very poor quality of life.[13][14]


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Diabetic Gastroparesis - Questions

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A patient with diabetes mellitus complains of gastric reflux, postprandial fullness, and occasional vomiting. A nuclear medicine study shows delayed gastric emptying. Which of the following medications should be prescribed?



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A 64-year-old diabetic with gastroparesis is started on a dopamine antagonist to relieve her condition. She most likely is given which of the following drugs?



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A 65-year-old female with a history of diabetes mellitus type 2, hypertension, and back pain presents complaining of episodic vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain. Her medications include metformin, metoprolol, and aspirin. She has lost 5 pounds in the past month and an exam reveals abdominal distension. An abdominal CT and upper gastrointestinal series are negative. CBC, electrolytes, creatinine, and liver function tests are normal. What is the next step in the workup of this patient?



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A 60-year-old male with a history of type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and back pain on metformin, metoprolol, and aspirin presents with episodic vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain. He has lost 6 pounds and all the radiological studies and blood work appear to be normal. What is the next best step?



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Which medication can be used to treat the symptoms of diabetic gastropathy?



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A person with diabetes mellitus has been diagnosed with gastroparesis. Which of the following medications may be of benefit in this disorder? Select all that apply.



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A 23-year-old woman with a history of type 1 diabetes mellitus, on insulin, since she was four years old presents with trouble controlling her blood sugars. She is on an insulin pump and is compliant with it. She has made no changes in diet and is taking the right doses of insulin as she has always done. However, lately, she has had episodes of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia needing her to change her insulin doses. She also reports that she has lost about 8 lbs of weight in the last six weeks unintentionally. She feels full with smaller quantities of food and has nausea, mainly when she eats burgers or pizza, often leading to vomiting. Which of the following is a mediator of her symptoms in response to the fat content in her ileum?



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A 56-year-old woman with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes mellitus presents for management of gastroparesis. She has seen two other health care providers for the same problem before this. Her chief complaint is nausea, which she reports is constant and prevents her from being able to eat foods that she likes. She vomits about 2-3 times a day. She has had three admissions for diabetic ketoacidosis over the last year. Her medical history includes hypertension, hyperlipidemia, chronic kidney disease stage 3, and chronic migraines. Because of her chronic kidney disease, her nephrologist recommended against the use of NSAIDs, and therefore, she is on oxycodone for her headaches as needed, which she uses about 7-10 days a month. She has failed therapy with erythromycin. She is hesitant to try metoclopramide given the risks of tardive dyskinesia and is inquiring about gastric pacemakers. Which of the following is a predictor for optimal response to gastric pacing?



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A 28-year-old woman presents with epigastric pain and vomiting for the last eight months, which is progressively getting worse. She has a history of type 1 diabetes mellitus and is on an insulin pump. Though her diabetes has been hard to control, she is a compliant patient who works as an executive in a multinational company. An upper gastrointestinal endoscopy done after 12 hours of fasting shows mild gastritis and biopsies were negative for H. pylori and celiac disease. Which of the following statements regarding the disease process is correct?



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A 38-year-old man with diabetic gastroparesis comes in for a second opinion after failing various dietary modifications and intermittent treatments with antiemetics and prokinetic agents. He has tried eating small meals with low fat and fiber content. He takes high doses of ondansetron every day without adequate symptom relief. He responded well to erythromycin initially but soon lost that response. He had mild symptom relief with metoclopramide, but he is worried about the side effects and wants to avoid it. He has a family history of sudden cardiac death and does not wish to be referred to be evaluated for a clinical trial involving cisapride. He continues to have significant symptoms that are now leading to weight loss, and the nausea is affecting his job performance. Which of the following statements is true regarding the management of refractory gastroparesis?



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A 43-year-old man developed type 1 diabetes after having a pancreatic injury from a motorcycle accident when he was 25. He is on insulin, and his blood sugars are usually well controlled. He comes in for nausea, occasional vomiting, and early satiety that started over one year ago. He has not lost weight but is having problems maintaining his blood sugars due to the vomiting. He also complains of occasional abdominal pain after a meal, mainly when he eats out at his favorite burger joint. Which of the following factors will help improve the patient's symptoms?



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Diabetic Gastroparesis - References

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