OBJECTIVE: Although ultrasonic imaging may represent a valid alternative to scintigraphy for measurement of gastric emptying, most studies comparing the two methods have been carried out with liquid meals. The aim of this study was to compare scintigraphic and ultrasonographic measurements of gastric emptying of a solid meal in healthy subjects and in patients with possible delay in emptying. METHODS: Nineteen subjects were studied: five controls, six patients with gastroesophageal reflux, and eight patients with dysmotility-like dyspepsia. Gastric emptying was measured by both scintigraphy and ultrasonography after ingestion of an 800-calorie solid, realistic meal containing Tc-99m-labeled chicken liver. Scintigraphic measurements were made every 15 min for 6 h, and ultrasonic imaging of antral sections was undertaken every 15 min for the first 1 h and every 30 min thereafter. Total emptying times were calculated independently using the two methods, and the emptying patterns recorded by the two methods were compared. RESULTS: Maximal antral dilation occurred 30 min (range 0-90 min) after the end of the meal and persisted until 96 +/- 42 min, by which time gastric radioactivity had decreased from its maximum by 43% +/- 23%. From this time an, the antral cross-sectional area returned toward the basal value, declining faster than the gastric counts recorded by scintigraphy. Total emptying times measured by ultrasound and by scintigraphy were in good agreement in all subjects, with a mean difference of only 4.5 min (limits of agreement, - 17.1 to 21.6 min). CONCLUSIONS: Ultrasonographic measurement of antral cross-sectional area provides a valid alternative to scintigraphy for the measurement of total gastric emptying of a solid meal. It is less reliable if other parameters of gastric emptying such as T-1/2 are required.
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