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Your doctor has requested a gastric emptying study. This booklet will answer some of the questions you may have. 

What is a gastric emptying study? 

A Gastric Emptying Study is a test to determine whether the time taken for a meal to move through a person’s stomach falls into the normal range or not. 

What is involved? 

This test assesses the transit of the meal from the stomach into the small bowel, and therefore takes four hours to complete all imaging.  

When you arrive in the department, a technologist will explain the entire procedure to you and then give you the opportunity to ask any questions. If you are diabetic, then you will be asked to measure your blood sugar level. If your blood sugar is too high, it will affect the test and therefore having your blood sugar under control before the study is required. The technologist will then ask you to eat a breakfast consisting of scrambled egg whites, two pieces of toast and jam. A small amount of radioactive tracer is added to the meal. You will not be able to taste it. It has no known side effects. Once you eat this meal, you cannot have anything else to eat or drink until the test is complete. 

Immediately after you finish eating, you will be asked to stand in front of a special detector, called a gamma camera, to take pictures of your stomach from the front and back. The imaging time is one minute for each picture. These pictures will be repeated once an hour for up to four hours. After each set of images, you will have approximately an hour of waiting time. During this interval, you will be asked to sit in the waiting area.  

Do I need to prepare for the scan? 

  • Bring your Health card. 
  • You will be required to fast overnight before the study. You must also refrain from smoking during this same period. 
  • If you are allergic to eggs or have a gluten allergy, please advise our booking staff before the procedure is booked. 
  • If you are diabetic, please bring your glucometer and insulin to your appointment. 
  • Certain medications interfere with the results of this test and need to be stopped 2 days prior to your appointment. Please give a complete list of your medications to the booking clerk and they will advise you which medications need to be stopped. You must always consult your physician before stopping any medication. Please bring a complete list of your current medications. 
  • Since there may be a few hours waiting time between imaging during this procedure, it may be beneficial to bring some reading material. There is free Wi-Fi available. 
  • Please leave all valuables at home. 
  • Please notify our booking office at the time of scheduling your appointment if you have any concerns regarding diet restrictions, food allergies, standing upright, have a language barrier or any other special needs, so that appropriate arrangements can be made ahead to provide you with the best possible care. 

Will it hurt? 

This test is completely painless. 

Is the radiation dangerous? 

The meal contains a small amount of radioactive tracer which emits gamma rays (these are similar to X-rays). We use the smallest dose possible to provide as much information as we can about your condition. The radiation dose is very low and will disappear by itself after two days. The results of your scan will give your doctor useful information about your condition and will help them plan your treatment. The benefits of having the scan far outweigh any potential risk from the small radiation dose.  

Do I need to do anything after the scan? 

No special precautions are needed after the scan. If you are travelling across any borders in the seven days after your scan, please ask us for further advice. Border crossings and airports have very sensitive radiation detectors which may pick up tiny amounts of radioactivity remaining after your scan. We will give you a letter that you can show to customs officials at border crossings or airports. 

Is there anything I should tell the staff before ingesting the meal? 

Please tell us if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.  

You will be required to provide a complete list of your medications before the test. 

If you are diabetic, you will be asked to measure your blood sugar level before the test can be started.  

Is there anything I should tell the staff after the test has started? 

If you vomit at any point during the test, you must let the technologist know as this will impact the outcome of your test. 

What about breastfeeding? 

Breastfeeding must be interruption of 4 hours after the exam, during which time one milk meal should be pumped and discarded. Prepare for your exam accordingly. 

How will I get the results of my scan? 

A specially trained doctor will examine the pictures. This is normally done soon after the end of the scan. A report is then sent to the doctor who asked us to do the scan. Your doctor will normally receive the report within one week. You will also have access to the report on MyChart as soon as it is released. 

If you have questions about the scan results or report, please contact your doctor directly. They are best able to interpret the report for you. 

Will this test cost me money? 

No. This test is paid for by the healthcare system. The test costs several hundred dollars, so please notify the department at 613-761-4831 if you cannot make your appointment. 

What should I do if I cannot make my appointment? 

If you cannot make you appointment, it is important that you notify the department at 613-761-4831 as soon as possible. Failure to make your appointment results in wasting of expensive materials that are ordered especially for your appointment and also reduces availability to other patients. Missed appointments may also result in delays of your treatments. 

Directions and Parking 

Civic Campus  1053 Carling Avenue – 1st Floor Tel.: 613-761-4831, option 8 Hours: Mon. – Fri., 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Directions: From within the Civic Campus, take the “C” elevators to the 1st Floor and follow the signs to Nuclear Medicine. Patients may also ask for directions at the patient information desk. General Campus  501 Smyth Road – Main level Tel.: 613-761-4831, option 8 Hours: Mon. – Fri., 7:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Directions: From the main entrance, follow the signs on the main level (located at the public elevators). Patients may also ask for directions at the patient Information desk. 
Park in either parking lot off Carling Avenue (P7) or in the multistory parking garage (P1).  Park in the parking garage which is located beside the main entrance just off Smyth Road.  

Parking instructions 

  • All parking lots are automated  
  • Take the parking ticket with you inside.  
  • When you have completed your appointment, you can pay by cash or credit card at one of our pay stations, or you can pay by credit card with express exit at the parking lot exit gates (the grace period after payment to leave facility is 20 minutes). 
  • Payment methods: 
    • Pay stations: Cash or credit card (Visa, MasterCard or American Express). 
  • Maximum parking fee is $13.00 

Visit The Ottawa Hospital’s website for additional directions and parking instructions and maps

Last updated on: May 17th, 2022