Chronic idiopathic intestinal pseudoobstruction is a serious disorder of intestinal neuromuscular function resulting in recurrent episodes of intestinal obstruction, and is caused by primary disease of the enteric nerves or enteric smooth muscle. Gastric electrical control activity detected by the non-invasive technique of surface electrogastrography was investigated in 11 children (0.1-16 years) with proven chronic idiopathic intestinal pseudoobstruction (four with known disease of the enteric nerves, three with disease of smooth muscle cells, and four without defined pathology), to determine whether abnormalities were present and whether these were useful in detecting the underlying pathology. Abnormalities were present in eight of 11 patients. Persistent tachygastria (electrical control activity frequency > 5 cycles/minute) was found in three patients, all with a proven neuropathy. A continuously irregular frequency was found in five patients, three with a proven myopathy and two with undefined pathology. A normal electrical control activity frequency was present in three patients, one with a proven neuropathy and two with undefined pathology. It is suggested that this non-invasive technique may provide a useful screening test of the pathophysiological basis of the functional obstruction in children with chronic idiopathic intestinal pseudoobstruction.
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