The motor activity of the transverse, descending, and sigmoid colon was recorded for 24 hours in 14 healthy volunteers with a colonoscope positioned catheter. During the study the patients ate two 1000 kcal mixed meals and one continental breakfast. Colonic motor activity was low before meals and minimal during sleep; the motility index increased significantly after meals and at morning awakening. Most of the motor activity was represented by low amplitude contractions present singly or in bursts, which showed no recognisable pattern. All but two subjects also showed isolated high amplitude (up to 200 mmHg) contractions that propagated peristaltically over long distances at approximately 1 cm/sec. Most of these contractions occurred after morning awakening, and some in the late postprandial period, with a mean of 4.4/subject/24 h. The peristaltic contractions were often felt as an urge to defecate or preceded defecation, and could represent the manometric equivalent of the mass movements.
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