We have studied 22 consecutive patients referred for investigation of severe chronic right upper quadrant pain. The majority were women whose symptoms had been present for many years. All had undergone repeated investigations of the pancreatico-biliary, gastro-intestinal, urinary, and even gynaecological systems without a satisfactory diagnosis. Most had undergone at least one abdominal operation in an unsuccessful attempt to cure their pain. In 21 of 22 patients the customary pain was completely and reproducibly mimicked by balloon distension of the small or large intestine in at least one site. The trigger sites were jejunum (15), ileum (12), right colon (nine), and duodenum (six). In 12 more than one trigger site was found. Close questioning revealed features of the irritable bowel syndrome in the majority and depression in many though the symptoms were not spontaneously volunteered. Reproduction of pain has provided a convincing demonstration to this difficult group of patients that they have a sensitive gut and allows appropriate management.
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