Gastric emptying scan

Boy getting a gastric emptying scan

What is a gastric emptying scan?

A gastric emptying scan is a test to see how long it takes for food to empty from the stomach and enter the small intestine.

How is the gastric emptying scan done?

A gastric emptying scan is carried out by a nuclear medicine technologist.

The test involves adding a small amount of radioactive material to some food or liquid. When your child has the food or liquid, the material will cause it to show up clearly inside your child's stomach during the scan. The food or liquid will not taste any different to your child.

If your child is having a solid gastric emptying scan (a scan with solid food), they will be given an egg sandwich to eat.

If they are having a liquid gastric emptying scan, they will, depending on their age, have infant formula or milk, apple juice, or a liquid meal replacement.

Digestive system
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Your child can take the liquid in different ways:

  • orally (by mouth)
  • through a gastric tube (a tube that goes directly into their stomach)
  • through a naso-gastric tube (a tube that goes through their nose, past their throat, and down into their stomach).

When your child has taken the sandwich or had the liquid, a special camera will take pictures at set times to check how fast your child's stomach is emptying. In most cases, your child can watch a movie as the scan is being done.

Do I need to supply the food or liquid for the scan?

If your child needs formula for this scan, please bring it with you from home. The hospital will provide all other liquids and any food.

Does my child need to do anything special to prepare for the scan?

Your child will not be able to eat or drink anything for a while before the scan, even food that isn't normally swallowed (such as chewing gum or sucking candy).

  • For a solid scan, your child must not eat or drink anything four to six hours before the test.
  • For a liquid scan, your child must not eat or drink anything three to four hours before the test.

How long does the scan take?

The scan (both solid and liquid) takes about 2.5 hours.

Does the scan carry any risks?

A gastric emptying scan involves giving a very small amount of radiation to your child. The nuclear medicine team will discuss this with you when you and your child arrive for the scan. You might also find it helpful to read this information about nuclear medicine from the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging.

When are the results available?

A nuclear medicine doctor will send a report to your family doctor or paediatrician (child's doctor) within one or two working days of the scan. Please contact your doctor to get the results. You will not be able to get the results from the nuclear medicine technologist.

Key points

  • A gastric emptying scan shows how quickly food moves from the stomach to the small intestine. It takes about 2.5 hours.
  • The test involves adding a tiny amount of radioactive material to some food or liquid before giving it to your child. A special camera then takes pictures at set times to check how fast the food or liquid is moving through your child's stomach.
  • Your child must not eat or drink anything for three to four hours before a scan using liquid or for four to six hours before a scan using solid food.
  • A nuclear medicine doctor will send the results of the scan to your family doctor or paediatrician (child's doctor) within two working days. The person who does the scan cannot give the results.
​Mandy Kohli, Clinical Co-ordinator, Nuclear Medicine
12/6/2013

​At SickKids

If you have any questions or concerns about the scan or if you need to change your appointment, please call the Nuclear Medicine Department at 416 813 6065.

​Source

Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging (2013). Image Gently: Nuclear Medicine - What can I do as a parent? 





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