The effect of oral laxatives on the organisation of colonic motor complexes was investigated in four conscious dogs. Six strain gauge transducers were implanted on the colon of each dog. After a control period of two to three hours, dogs were orally dosed with 1, 2, or 4 ml/kg of castor oil, or 0.5 g/kg magnesium citrate. Oral olive oil, 4 ml/kg, was used as control. The recording was continued for another 10 hours or until defecation occurred. Each dog showed spontaneous cyclic bursts of contractions (contractile states) at all recording sites during the control period. Contractile states migrating orad or caudad over at least half the length of the colon were called colonic migrating motor complexes (CMMC). Castor oil and magnesium citrate significantly increased the period of colonic motor complexes, but olive oil had no significant effect. None of the above substances changed the percentage of orad migrating motor complexes, as compared with the control values. Periods in which colonic motor activity was completely absent for at least 60 min over at least three consecutive recording sites occurred more frequently after all of the substances. The occurrence of these periods of inhibition, however, was not a consistent feature and there seemed to be no relationship between the occurrence of inhibitory periods and defecation during the recording period. The dogs defecated within 10 hours after administration of magnesium citrate, 1, 2, and 4 ml/kg of castor oil in 12.5, 25, 37.5, and 88.8% of experiments respectively, but never with olive oil. Defecation was generally accompanied by giant migrating contractions in the colon. We conclude that oral laxatives, magnesium citrate and castor oil have a profound effect on colonic motor complexes and colonic motor activity. The period of CMMC is significantly prolonged after their oral administration because of an increased number of non-migrating motor complexes or periods of inhibition of motor activity.
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