A gastric emptying scan, also known as a gastric emptying study or test, is an exam that uses nuclear medicine to determine how fast food leaves the stomach. It differs from a standard X-ray in that it uses a small amount of radioactive material to emit photon energy. The energy is detected by a gamma camera, which creates a computerized image.

Gastric emptying scans are often used to diagnose gastroparesis, a condition in which the stomach’s muscles don’t work properly. This results in a delay in sending food to the small intestine.

Doctors order the scans for adults and children who frequently vomit, feel bloated after eating, or complain of abdominal pain. Weight loss or changes in sugar levels are also symptoms of gastroparesis.