Mechanical properties of the colon: comparison of the features of the African and European colon in vitro.
The tensile properties of the colon have been examined using methods which gave repeatable results. They showed little change after storage in salt for up to five weeks. The burst strength remained unchanged along the length of the colon. The tensile strength fell distally, as the thickness of the colonic wall increased. The width at burst decreased distally as did the internal diameter. The visco-elastic property of stress relaxation was constant in all regions. The tensile property of the colon was well developed at birth, but fell with age as did the width at burst and the internal diameter. Stress relaxation was unaffected. Because there may be a mechanical abnormality of the colonic wall in diverticular disease and as Europeans are prone to this condition while Africans are not commonly affected, European and African colons were compared. The tensile strength in a Kampala group was greater than in an Edinburgh one, but fell significantly in both groups with age. The width at burst was greater in the Kampala group, but also declined with age. Stress-relaxation was similar in both groups. In view of the similar properties in childhood of colons from Edinburgh and Kampala, the strength of the adult African compared with European colons may derive later from environmental factors such as diet. There were, however, no differences between the colons with and without diverticular disease in European subjects over the age of 50 years.