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Papers of the Week

2022 Jul 07

J Investig Med

Autonomic dysfunction and gastroparesis in Gulf War veterans.


Verne Z T, Fields JZ, Zhang B B, Zhou Q
J Investig Med. 2022 Jul 07.
PMID: 35798472.


Over 25% of veterans with Gulf War illness developed chronic gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms of unknown etiology after they returned from deployment to the Persian Gulf. To determine the prevalence of delayed gastric emptying and its association with autonomic dysfunction in returning Gulf War (GW) veterans with chronic GI symptoms, we prospectively studied 35 veterans who were deployed to the Persian Gulf and developed chronic nausea, vomiting, postprandial abdominal pain, and bloating during their tour of duty and 15 asymptomatic controls. All veterans underwent 5 standardized cardiovascular tests to assess autonomic function. Each test was scored from 0 (normal) to 5 (severe disease) and the mean was calculated. A composite score >1.5 was considered abnormal, with 5 representing severe autonomic dysfunction. A standardized gastric emptying test with a solid phase was performed in each veteran. A gastric retention of >50% at 100 minutes was considered abnormal. The composite autonomic score was 3.7 in veterans with GI symptoms (vs 1.3 in controls) (p<0.01). The mean solid phase retention at 100 minutes was 72.6% in the symptomatic veterans versus 24.6% in controls (p<0.001). Our results suggest that autonomic dysfunction and delayed gastric emptying are common in returning GW veterans with GI symptoms. Autonomic dysfunction was positively correlated with the severity of delayed gastric emptying and may account for the GI symptoms of nausea, vomiting, postprandial abdominal pain, and bloating. These new findings are important for an increasing number of veterans who are serving in the Persian Gulf and are at a high risk of developing GI disorders while deployed.