Diagnosis of Dumping Syndrome

How do doctors diagnose dumping syndrome?

To diagnose dumping syndrome, your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms and may order tests to confirm the diagnosis.

Medical history

Your doctor will review your medical history, including any history of stomach or esophagus surgery.

Review of your symptoms

Doctors typically diagnose dumping syndrome based on symptoms. Doctors may use a scoring system that assigns point values to different symptoms or may ask you to complete a special questionnaire. Scoring systems and questionnaires can help your doctor find out if you most likely have dumping syndrome or a different health problem.

Patient talking with a doctor.Doctors typically diagnose dumping syndrome based on symptoms.

What tests do doctors use to diagnose dumping syndrome?

Doctors may use the following tests to confirm that you have dumping syndrome and rule out other conditions with similar symptoms.

Oral glucose tolerance test

You’ll be asked to fast—not eat or drink anything except water—for at least 10 hours before the test. For the test, you’ll drink a solution that contains glucose, a form of sugar. A health care professional will take blood samples and check your blood pressure and heart rate before you drink the glucose solution and then every 30 minutes for up to 3 hours.

The health care professional will use blood samples to measure your blood glucose level, also called blood sugar, and your hematocrit. A hematocrit test measures how much of your blood is made up of red blood cells. When you have dumping syndrome, fluid moves from your blood stream into your small intestine after a meal. With less fluid in your blood, the portion of your blood made up of red blood cells increases.

Your doctor may diagnose dumping syndrome if

  • your heart rate increases by 10 beats per minute 30 minutes after you drink the glucose solution
  • your blood test results show a 3 percent increase in your hematocrit 30 minutes after you drink the glucose solution
  • your blood test results show low blood glucose 1 to 3 hours after you drink the glucose solution

Gastric emptying scan

A gastric emptying scan is also called gastric emptying scintigraphy. For this test, you eat a bland meal—such as eggs or an egg substitute—that contains a small amount of radioactive material. A camera outside your body scans your abdomen to show where the radioactive material is located. By tracking the radioactive material, a health care professional can measure how fast your stomach empties after the meal. The health care professional will scan your abdomen several times to see how fast your stomach empties for up to 4 hours after the meal. The test can help confirm a diagnosis of dumping syndrome.

Other tests

Your doctor may order additional tests, such as upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy or upper GI series, to examine the structure of your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine and to check for signs of other health problems.

January 2019
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.