Ileal permeability to different sized polyethyleneglycols (590-942 dalton PEG) was investigated peroperatively in 11 patients with Crohn's disease and seven with colonic carcinoma. A 15 cm ileal segment was converted into a tied loop, in which the PEG's were deposited. Absorption from the ileal segment was then measured as six-hour urinary recovery of the PEg dose. Polyethyleneglycol absorption in Crohn's disease was greater than in cancer patients and similar throughout the weight range, but in the cancer patients it was inversely proportional to molecular weight. Thus there was significantly greater absorption of the higher weights (greater than or equal to 678 dalton) in the Crohn's, than in the cancer patients. The apparently increased permeability of the small intestine in Crohn's disease may be an important factor in its pathogenesis.
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