To study the effects of stressful stimulus (cold pain) upon postprandial gastric, duodenal, and pancreatic function, nine healthy adult volunteers were intubated and then given two identical liquid meals, (199 cal (789 KJ) 240 ml), each being ingested during a period of irregular fasting gastroduodenal motility. Ten minutes after each meal the subjects received, in randomised order, either a test or control stimulus. The test stimulus consisted of repeated one minute immersions of a hand into ice water, with 15 seconds recovery between immersions, for a total of 20 minutes, while for the control, water at 37 degrees C was used. Serial samples of gastric and duodenal contents allowed estimation of changes in gastric emptying and acid secretion, together with pancreatic trypsin output, by a double marker perfusion technique. Measurements of blood pressure, pulse, and finger temperature acted as extra-intestinal indices of autonomic response to the stimuli. Cold pain significantly delayed gastric emptying and produced a biphasic alteration in both gastric secretion and pancreatic trypsin output, with an initial reduction during the response to the stress followed by an increase during the post-stress period. Our findings show that the normal postprandial function of the upper gut can be measurably disturbed by a stressful stimulus. The coincidence of these disturbances with other extra-intestinal autonomic changes suggests that they are a further manifestation of the somatic response to a stress.
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