Current tests of gastric and small intestinal motor function provide relevant physiological information, but their clinical utility is controversial. This article reviews the current procedures, indications, significance, pitfalls, and guidelines for gastrointestinal motility measurements by scintigraphy, gastroduodenojejunal manometry, and surface electrogastrography in humans. Methods included review of literature and discussions in closed and open fora among investigators, including presentations for peer review at focused (Iowa City American Motility Society Symposium, December 1995) and national meetings (American Gastroenterological Association, May 1996, and American Motility Society, September 1996). The current tests are generally complementary; scintigraphy is typically the first test in the evaluation of gastric motor function and often confirms the clinical suspicion of dysmotility. Manometry identifies patterns suggestive of myopathy, neuropathy, or obstruction but may be most helpful when it shows entirely normal findings, because manometry helps in part to exclude dysmotility as a cause of symptoms. Electrogastrography may identify dysrhythmias or failure of signal power to increase postprandially; rhythm abnormalities may be independent of impaired emptying among dyspeptic patients. The best validated and clinically most significant results pertain to transit tests; manometry may contribute importantly to the diagnostic process; and the significance of electrogastrography remains to be fully elucidated.
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