AIM: The effects of oxytocin on colonic perception of intraluminal distension were evaluated in 26 patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), using a flaccid bag placed in the descending colon and connected to a computerised barostat. METHOD: Symptomatic responses (first sensation and pain) were evaluated during isobaric distensions (4 mm Hg increments, five minute duration, five minute interval with return to zero pressure between each step), performed automatically by the barostat, during a continuous infusion of placebo or various doses of oxytocin (10, 20, 30, and 50 mU/min). RESULTS: The distension pressure (mean (SD)) required to induce a first abdominal sensation was 17.3 (5.5) mm Hg on placebo, 19.9 (5.8) on oxytocin 10 mU/min (NS), 22.3 (6.0) mm Hg on oxytocin 20 mU/min (p < 0.01), 23.1 (6.6) mm Hg on oxytocin 30 mU/min (p < 0.01), and 24.0 (7.1) mm Hg on oxytocin 50 mU/min (p < 0.01). The distension pressure required to induce pain was 24.8 (6.3) mm Hg on placebo, 26.0 (5.8) on oxytocin 10 mU/min (NS), 33.3 (7.8) mm Hg on oxytocin 20 mU/min (p < 0.01), 34.2 (7.6) mm Hg on oxytocin 30 mU/min (p < 0.01), and 34.3 (7.9) mm Hg on oxytocin 50 mU/ min (p < 0.01). Compliance curves were not different after placebo and oxytocin injection at the different doses. Naloxone did not inhibit the effect of oxytocin. Oxytocin also did not alter somatic perception, characterised by the RIII reflex at the level of the biceps femori. CONCLUSIONS: Oxytocin significantly increases thresholds for visceral perception in IBS patients at doses equal or to greater than 20 mU/min, possibly by acting at the level of visceral afferents.
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