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Gastric empty scan

Your child is scheduled for a gastric empty scan at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Date: ____________________________

Test time: ____________________________

Check-in time: ____________________________

___ Children's - Minneapolis
2525 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404

___ Children's - St. Paul
345 North Smith Avenue
St. Paul, Minnesota 55102

___ Children's Minnetonka
6050 Clearwater Drive
Minnetonka, Minnesota 55343

Please bring a list of your child's medicines and your insurance card with you. If you have questions about your insurance coverage for these services, or any special referral requirements, please contact your insurance company directly. They will advise you about your plan's coverage.

Please bring anything you use to feed your child such as a "sippy cup" or any special eating utensils.

A parent or legal guardian must accompany children younger than 18 years old.

What is a gastric empty scan?

This test helps to determine the speed with which the stomach empties. It also helps to see whether or not your child has food or liquid coming up from the stomach into the esophagus or lungs.

This test is done in the Nuclear Medicine department using special camera equipment. It gives very little radiation to your child. A radioisotope is a clear liquid that allows us to see only the function of the part of the body we are looking at. It will be mixed into food and given to your child. The camera detects gamma rays (invisible radiation) coming from the radioisotope and creates images (pictures) on film.

How is the test done?

A technologist will bring you and your child into an exam room and explain the test to you both.

Your child will be given some food to eat, including:

  • scrambled eggs
  • bread or toast
  • juice or milk
  • or alternative meal for patients with egg allergies

A small amount of radioisotope will be mixed with the eggs. It has no taste or smell, and your child will not feel the medicine or any side effects from it.

We will ask your child to eat as much of the eggs or oatmeal as possible within 10 to 15 minutes. Your encouragement will help.

After eating, your child will stand completely still in front of the camera for 1 minute. This will be performed every 10 minutes for 2 hours. Many children watch a movie (we have DVDs and videotapes here), listen to a story read by a parent, or simply rest.

A radiologist will check to see if more images are needed before you leave, and will send a report to your child's doctor.

Can I be with my child during the test?

You are welcome to stay with your child. The test will take two hours.

What should we do before the test?

Do not give your child anything to eat or drink, including water, for three to 6 hours before the test. It is important that your child has an empty stomach and is hungry at the time of the test. If your child needs any prescribed medicines within 2 hours of your appointment, give them with a few sips of water only, unless your doctor recommends otherwise.

Please tell staff at the clinic where the test was ordered, or the radiology scheduler, if:

  • Your child has special feeding needs (such as tube feedings).
  • Your child is allergic to any foods.

Read and discuss this information with your child. Answer as many questions as you can.

To learn more about preparing and helping your child cope with this test, call the child life department. Child life specialists are trained to help children understand and cope with medical procedures and can offer advice on how to talk with and support your children. There is no charge for child life.

Children's - Minneapolis: 612-813-6259
Children's - St. Paul: 651-220-6465
Children's Minnetonka: 952-930-8773

How should I prepare my child?

Children are usually less afraid and feel more successful when they know what to expect and what is expected of them. You know your child best. The amount of detail you give will depend on your child's age and developmental level, reactions to previous health care experiences, and degree of anxiety about this test. Talking about it can help your child be more comfortable during the test, which will make the procedure easier for both of you.

Most children benefit when you use simple words to explain:

  • why the test is needed. Describe the child's symptoms such as vomiting trouble swallowing. Explain that the test will help find the cause of the problem.
  • what parts of her body will be involved. For example, "This test looks at your inside from your throat to your tummy" (use words familiar to your child).
  • what she might see, hear, and feel - the camera, eating or drinking as much as possible, standing still for pictures.
  • that it is okay for hospital staff to touch your child's body for this test.
  • where parents or other significant care providers will be during the test: "I/we will be with you the whole time."
  • that questions are welcome at any time.

For many children, a big concern is whether or not the test will hurt. Assure them that although there may be some discomfort, it will only last a few moments. Remind them that the test is important because it helps find out how their body is working inside.

How can I support my child during this test?

Before the appointment, you and your child can:

  • Practice standing and being "as still as a statue."
  • Practice relaxing. Imagine being in a favorite place or doing a favorite activity.
  • Pack comfort items, such as a stuffed toy or blanket, some familiar books or quiet toys, a pacifier for very young children. Older children and teens may want to bring an iPod® or a hand-held video game.
  • Talk about how much your child wants to know about the test while it's happening. Some children want to be told each step in advance and also while it's happening. Others do not want all the detail; they simply want to be distracted and supported. Be sure to share your child's wishes with the staff once you are here.

During the test

Research is clear that during stressful times, parents are most helpful to their children when they offer distraction, rather than apologies.

  • Praise your child often during the test. Be specific to behaviors, such as "You're holding still. Good for you!" or "You're doing just what we asked you to do!"
  • Talk about familiar, positive things – what your child likes, places you've enjoyed, activities you're planning as a family, fun times you've had, successes.
  • Imagine the places, things, or people you're talking about and describe them, or have your child describe them to you.
  • Ask open-ended questions that encourage conversation rather than those that require just a yes or no answer. For example, "Tell me what you'd like to do when we go to the pool" works better than, "We're going to have a great time when we go swimming, aren't we?"
  • Sing songs together. Play games that require thinking, such as spelling words or adding and subtracting out loud. Ask young children such things as which animals live on a farm or in the zoo and the sounds they make, or to name all the people in their family or class, and so on.
  • Read the books you brought, hold a toy so your child can see and play with it, play "Can you guess?" and give clues about people and pets you know, things you see in the room.

What can we expect after the test?

Your child can go back to normal eating and activity after this test.

The doctor who ordered the test will contact you with the results in 2 or 3 business days.

What else do we need to know?

On the day before the test, you may pre-register online at If you prefer, you can call the admitting office. Please do this before 3 p.m.

Children's - Minneapolis: 612-813-6231
Children's - St. Paul: 651-220-6878
Children's Minnetonka: 952-930-8600

A family member or friend, age 18 or older, may stay with your child. Siblings may not be in the room during the test. Please have an adult stay with them in the waiting room, or sign them into the Sibling Play Area (if 2 years or older). Call to ask about hours:

Children's - Minneapolis, 2nd floor
(612) 813-7051
Children's - St. Paul, 1st floor
(651) 220-7150

Plan to allow extra time before the appointment to check your children into the Sibling Play Area.


This sheet is not specific to your child but provides general information. For questions about why your child is being tested, please ask your child's doctor. For more information about what happens before, during, and after the test, call the radiology department at the site the exam is scheduled (see the beginning of this sheet).

Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
Patient/Family Education
2525 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Last reviewed 8/2015 ©Copyright

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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