GI Tract

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Proper diagnosis and treatment of GI motility disorders can significantly improve your health and quality of life. Call 310-825-2631 to connect with a specialist.

Motility tests to check for bacterial overgrowth, sugar intolerances, and GI tract transit times are also offered at UCLA.


Breath testing

tiny doctors examining an intestine with a huge magnifying glass

We can arrange for at-home breath testing. Your UCLA gastroenterologist can use breath testing to check for bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine or check for intolerance to certain sugars.

After your doctor orders a breath test, a breath test kit will be shipped to your home. The kit includes preparation instructions, instructions on how to perform the test, tubes for breath samples, labels, sugar, straw, and a mailing label. Once you have completed the test, a gastroenterologist will interpret the results.

Breath testing is used to diagnose or evaluate: Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), IBS-diarrhea predominant, and sugar intolerances.

If this test has been ordered by your gastroenteologist, and you have questions about how to schedule or prepare for your appointment, please speak with your doctor's office.


Gastric emptying study

This is a test performed by the Nuclear Medicine Department. It measures how long it takes for food to move from the stomach into the small intestine. To prepare, you will need to stop eating or drinking 4 hours before your appointment. During the test, you will be given a protein-based sandwich that has a radioactive tracer. This allows the radiologist to see where the food is in your digestive tract throughout your test. After eating the sandwich, you will lie down and a scanner will take pictures of your abdomen every hour for a total of 4 hours.

Gastric emptying study is used to diagnose or evaluate: Gastric emptying time and gastroparesis.

If this test has been ordered by your gastroenteologist, and you have questions about how to schedule or prepare for your appointment, please speak with your doctor's office.


Sham feed study

The sham feed study is used to check how the Vagus nerve functions. A sham feed is when food is chewed but not swallowed. During a sham feed, the pancreas secretes pancreatic polypeptide into the bloodstream. In this study, pancreatic polypeptide levels are checked with a series of blood draws at different timed intervals.

The sham feed study will be performed by a nurse. The nurse will draw blood from you six different times. To avoid inserting a needle each time, the nurse will place a peripheral IV in your arm. During each blood draw a small amount of blood is drawn (about a teaspoon).

The nurse will draw blood twice and then instruct you to chew and spit your meal into a plastic bag. Once the sham feed is done, the nurse will draw blood four more times at different timed intervals. Once the blood draws have been completed, the nurse will remove the IV and you can return to your usual activities. The test takes about an hour to complete.

The sham feed study is used to evaluate: Vagal nerve function.

Your physician may order one of the following tests. Download prep instructions

  • Sham feed study

Wireless motility capsule test (SmartPill™)

The wireless motility capsule (SmartPill™) is a pill-sized device that measures pressure, temperature, and pH. Based upon these parameters the location of the capsule in the GI tract can be determined, so gastric emptying, small bowel transit and colonic transit can be evaluated. It is used to evaluate for delayed gastric emptying, small bowel motor dysfunction and to determine if constipation is caused by slow transit through the colon.

For this test, you will be asked to stop taking treatment for acid reflux and promotility agents for several days before the test. You will also be asked to fast for six hours before the test.

At your appointment, you will be given a recorder to wear for the duration for the study. You will eat a defined composition nutrient bar provided by our office, and then you will swallow the capsule with water. After swallowing the capsule, you will need to avoid eating and/or drinking anything for 6 hours. Once the fasting period is over, you can eat and drink as usual, and you can resume any treatment for acid reflux. The test can take up to 5 days at the most. The test can end sooner if the capsule has passed out of the body in stool before then.

After you return the equipment, the data are loaded onto a computer and interpreted by gastroenterologists in the center who are experts in the field.

Wireless motility capsule test (SmartPill™) is used to diagnose or evaluate: Gastric emptying time, small bowel transit, colonic transit, and slow-transit constipation.

Your physician may order one of the following tests. Download prep instructions

  • SmartPill™