The process of functional adaptation after extensive small bowel resection is complex and imprecisely understood. In vivo electrophysiological measurements for monitoring the functional adaptive process after massive small bowel resection in Brown-Norway rats were evaluated. Rats underwent either a sham operation (SH) or a 90% small bowel resection (SB). Standard rat chow was fed in unlimited quantities. At three or 10 weeks after operation, jejunal and ileal transepithelial potential differences (PD, mV) were determined. Electrogenic ion transport in the villus was measured after glucose (sodium coupled active glucose absorption; PD-glu) and in the crypt, after theophylline infusion (theophylline stimulated chloride secretion; PD-theo). Biopsies were taken simultaneously. Each experimental group consisted of three to five animals. At three weeks the PD-theo and PD-glu in SB rats were significantly lower than in SH rats in both jejunal and ileal segments. At 10 weeks PD-theo and PD-glu were significantly diminished in the jejunal segment of the SB rats compared with the SH rats. The values of PD-theo and PD-glu in the ileal segments were, however, no longer different between the two groups. Three and 10 weeks after operation the length of the villi in the SB group was increased significantly compared with the SH controls. These results indicate that in the early phase of adaptation in vivo electrophysiological variables do not correlate with histological changes in the SB rats. This might be due to cell immaturity resulting from an increased rate of cell turnover or lack of intercellular tight junctions. This hypothesis is supported by a recovery of PD responses in the ileum 10 weeks after resection.
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