Persistent Gastroparesis Following Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Nathali from South Florida sent us this question this week:


I was diagnosed one year ago with moderate Gastroparesis after I have been suffering with gastroenterology issues for over 10 years. I’ve seen many different GI’s. I had my gallbladder removed in 2015 (since my pain was always located in that area, my HIDA scan was borderline). In 2016, I had gastric sleeve surgery (I was over 285lbs, my PCP thought this was causing GI issues). After gastric sleeve my usual gallbladder area pain/nausea got worse. After many ER visits, I was started on Reglan/ Domperidone. Didn’t help. I was then referred to Cleveland Clinic where they told me it was highly unlikely that I had Gastroparesis (not based on any medical check-up, just the doctor’s opinion). After gastric emptying test diagnosed me with moderate Gastroparesis.

I followed dietary restrictions and am mostly on soft foods. After several ER visits this year, feeling sick every day and spending most of my days in bed since I don’t have much energy left, I sought out Dr. Rose for a gastric pacemaker (after much research). I was told I was not a candidate for the pacemaker since I had sleeve surgery and that my best option would be revision to bypass. After 2 months of tests to prepare me for bypass revision surgery, I was told this week that instead of revision surgery they want to try the pacemaker after all. This confused me since I was told previously, I wasn’t a candidate.

I had endoscopy 2 weeks ago and was told I also have bile reflux. After research, I read that bypass revision can help to resolve Gastroparesis issues, it can solve constant nausea and it has been proven to relief bile reflux. The pacemaker only seems to be helpful against nausea. I saw your article about Gastroparesis and would love to get your input.

Thank you!


Dear Nathali,

I have been quite fortunate over the past few years to meet and successfully treat several gastroparesis patients. The first patient I treated in 2010 had severe refractory gastroparesis with advanced symptoms including daily vomiting, dehydration, and electrolyte abnormalities. I performed a longitudinal gastric resection that preserved the antrum and added a duodeno-jejunostomy because this patient had a dilated duodenum. Amazingly, he did very well. His symptoms completely resolved immediately following surgery and he was able to go back on a regular diet again. I published this case report in SOARD journal under the title of “Laparoscopic longitudinal gastrectomy and duodeno-jejunostomy for treatment of diabetic gastroparesis”.

The rationale behind this approach to treating gastroparesis is the fact that sleeve gastrectomy performed for morbid obesity has been shown to increase gastric emptying. I took this concept, modified the sleeve surgery to preserve the antrum (gastric pump) and applied it to several gastroparesis patients over the past few years with great success. Postoperatively, nausea, bloating, vomiting, and pain resolved, and gastric emptying improved.

Randomized controlled studies have shown that gastric pacing is not an effective treatment for gastroparesis. Physicians still use this approach because there are no published guidelines for treatment of gastroparesis. The theory behind gastric pacing and its presumed mechanism of action make no sense to me. I think gastric pacing is a futile and naïve approach to gastroparesis treatment.

Gastric bypass surgery may work in mild gastroparesis cases. Gastroparesis is a generalized gastro-intestinal motility disorder. Bypassing or resecting the stomach is not an effective solution for delayed gastric emptying. The few published reports about gastric bypass surgery for treatment of gastroparesis including one recently published by Dr. Rosenthal in SOARD journal: “Surgical Management of Gastroparesis: A Single Institution Experience”, show modest symptom improvement. In this report the author concludes that gastric pacing is more effective than gastric bypass at alleviating pain due to gastroparesis. Probably, this is the reason you were offered gastric pacing first.

Both delayed gastric emptying and the presence of a hiatal hernia increase the likelihood of gastric content reflux into the esophagus (it can be bile or acid or both). Narrowing of the sleeve lumen and large residual gastric fundus are additional risk factors for reflux. Poor esophageal motility further exacerbates reflux symptoms and reflux induced damage of the esophagus.

I recommend a comprehensive evaluation and workup before making any decision. If the sleeve can be salvaged, then this would be your best option. If the sleeve cannot be salvaged, then conversion to gastric bypass may help you especially if you have a mild case of gastroparesis. Gastric pacing in the setting of a gastric sleeve has not been described to the best of my knowledge and I am not sure if it will work.

Healthy Regards,

Dr. Darido