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Michael Todd Wood, MD, FACS

Board Certified General Surgeon & Complex Wound Care located in Houston, TX & Sugar Land, TX

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Gastroparesis Q & A

What is gastroparesis?

Gastroparesis is a condition that limits your stomach’s ability to empty itself of food as it normally would during digestion. It’s related to nerve damage that limits the stomach muscle contraction that helps move food through the digestive track. 

This slowdown in digestion can cause symptoms such as:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Vomiting undigested food
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite and feeling full quickly when eating (early satiety)
  • Poor blood sugar control

Gastroparesis can also lead to complications such as dehydration, bacterial infection, and malnutrition.

What causes gastroparesis?

The underlying cause of gastroparesis is most often related to nerve damage that occurs as a complication of diabetes. Other factors that may lead to gastroparesis include:

  • Certain medications, including narcotics
  • Viral infection
  • Injury to the vagus nerve during abdominal surgery

Scleroderma, a connective tissue disorder that can affect skeletal muscles and internal organs, may also be an underlying cause of gastroparesis.

What is the treatment for gastroparesis?

To help with digestion, Dr. Wood and your gastroenterologist may recommend changes to your diet that include small, frequent, low-fat, low-fiber meals. Medications are also used to help stimulate the stomach muscles and control nausea and vomiting. Unfortunately, the medications may carry significant side effects, become ineffective over time, and be of little benefit to some patients.

To aid in the treatment of gastroparesis, Dr. Wood may suggest the use of a medical device that’s commonly referred to as a gastric pacemaker but is probably more appropriately described as a gastric neurostimulator. The neurostimulator functions by stimulating the gastric nerves to suppress the symptoms, such as pain, nausea and vomiting, of your gastroparesis.

The neurostimulator is surgically inserted in the abdominal wall and electrodes are placed on the stomach either through a small incision or via a laparoscopic approach. Settings can be adjusted as necessary for optimal results.

While not a cure for gastroparesis, the gastric stimulator can decrease nausea and vomiting, improve blood sugar control if you have diabetes, and increase the absorption of nutrients from the foods and beverages you consume.

Schedule an appointment with Dr. Wood for further evaluation regarding gastric stimulation for treatment of gastroparesis. Call for an appointment or use the online booking tool.