Skip to content

Gastroparesis: Idiopathic gastroparesis (Part Seven)

Gastroparesis occurring in the absence of any known trigger, such as diabetes, surgery, medication or disease related onset, is classified as idiopathic gastroparesis.  In most series that include patients with multiple forms of gastroparesis, idiopathic gastroparesis (IGP) is the most common, affecting 35-67% of GP cases.  As with most forms of GP, IGP affects about three times more women than men, particularly young and middle-aged women.  IGP in particular affects young women who are overweight or obese.

In a study including 243 patients with IGP, 88% were female.  34% reported frequent nausea, 23% abdominal pain and 19% vomiting.  28% had severely delayed gastric emptying, here defined as more than 35% retention of contents four hours after consumption.  46% were overweight.  When compared to patients with diabetic GP, IGP patients more often reported feeling too full after eating and that their hunger was sated by smaller meals.  IGP patients demonstrated more severe gastric retention than type I diabetic GP patients.

Moderate/severe upper abdominal pain was found to be more frequent in IGP, and correlated with GP severity, decrease in quality of life, depression and anxiety.  Having pain as the predominant symptom causes quality of life impairment equivalent with nausea and vomiting.

Bloating is a common GP symptom.  Severe bloating was present in 41% of patients, and was more common in overweight female patients.  It also corresponded with severe nausea, fullness, distention, abdominal pain and notable bowel dysfunction.  Quality of life and other measures of wellbeing decrease as bloating becomes more severe.

Idiopathic GP is treated similarly to other types, but diagnosis may be delayed due to the lack of a known trigger.  Medications that have been reported as helpful but have not been studied in larger populations include sildenafil, paroxetine, cisapride, tegaserod, clonidine and buspirone.


Sarosiek, Irene, et al. Surgical approaches to treatment of gastroparesis: Gastric electrical stimulation, pyloroplasty, total gastrectomy and enteral feeding tubes.  Gastroenterol Clin N Am 44 (2015) 151-167.

Pasricha, Pankaj Jay, Parkman, Henry P. Gastroparesis: Definitions and Diagnosis. Gastroenterol Clin N Am 44 (2015) 1-7.

Parkman, H. P. Idiopathic Gastroparesis. Gastroenterol Clin N Am 44 (2015) 59-68.

Nguyen, Linda Anh, Snape Jr., William J. Clinical presentation and pathophysiology of gastroparesis.  Gastroenterol Clin N Am 44 (2015) 21-30.

Bharucha, Adil E. Epidemiology and natural history of gastroparesis. Gastroenterol Clin N Am 44 (2015) 9-19.

Camilleri, Michael, et al. Clinical guideline: Management of gastroparesis. Am J Gastroenterol 2013; 108: 18-37.