A technique is described in which a chemical stimulus applied to the mucosa of the right colon is used to assess colonic motor function. Peroral intubation of the right colon was achieved using a fine polyvinylchloride (PVC) tube. Bisacodyl was used to initiate colonic motor activity, and colonic transit was monitored using 99mTc-DPTA and a gamma camera. In normal subjects there was rapid movement of the radiopharmaceutical from the right colon to the rectum. In patients with severe idiopathic constipation, a spectrum of colonic abnormality was observed from slow transit involving the rectum and sigmoid only to slow transit involving the whole colon. The hepatic flexure to rectum transit time for the 'head of the isotope column' in normals ranged from 1-10 minutes (mean 5.3 minutes), whereas in patients the transit time was 14-25 minutes in four patients and radioisotope did not reach the rectum by two hours in three other patients (controls v patients, p less than 0.01). Patients also showed relatively impaired transport of the isotope 'mass'. This technique has shown that the normal colon is capable of rapid effective transport in response to a standard stimulus, and that patients with severe idiopathic constipation have a definable colonic motor disorder.
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