Gastric Emptying Scans: Poor Adherence to National Guidelines

Journey L. Wise, Maria I. Vazquez-Roque, Caleb J. McKinney, Michael A. Zickella, Michael D. Crowell, Brian E. Lacy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Accurately diagnosing gastroparesis relies upon gastric emptying scintigraphy (GES) being performed correctly. Jointly published protocol guidelines have long been available; however, the extent to which practitioners adhere to these guidelines is unknown. Aims: This study aimed to assess national compliance with established GES protocol guidelines. Methods: We developed a questionnaire addressing the key protocol measures outlined in the Consensus Recommendations for Gastric Emptying Scintigraphy. Survey questions addressed patient information collection (15), patient preparation and procedure protocol (16), meal content and preparation (7), imaging (3), interpretation (4), reporting (7), and institutional demographic data (7). The anonymous questionnaire was distributed electronically to members of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Medical Imaging (SNMMI) and non-member recipients of the SNMMI daily email newsletter. One response per medical institution was permitted. Results: A total of 121 out of 872 potential medical institutions (MI) responded (13.9%); 49 (40.4%) were academic/teaching medical centers. The annual number (mean) of GES procedures was 199.9 (range 5–2000 GES/year). On average, MI performed 33.5/52 (64%) of protocol measures according to guidelines while academic medical centers performed 31.5/52 (61%) of protocol measures according to guidelines. Only 4 out of 88 MI (4.5%) performed GES while adhering to three critical measures: validated study duration; controlled blood glucose levels; and proper restriction of medications. Conclusions: Low compliance with GES protocol guidelines, even among academic medical centers, raises the likely possibility of misdiagnosis and improper management of upper gastrointestinal symptoms. These results highlight a need for increased awareness of protocol guidelines for gastric scintigraphy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2897-2906
Number of pages10
JournalDigestive diseases and sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Abdominal pain
  • Gastric emptying
  • Gastroparesis
  • Nausea
  • Opioids
  • Vomiting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Gastroenterology


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