Twenty six patients with insulin dependent diabetes mellitus underwent a gastric emptying test, a gall bladder contraction test, an orocaecal transit study, and a colon transit test. Eleven patients had signs of cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy, 15 patients were without signs of cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy. Mean gastric clearance of radioopaque markers ingested with a meal averaged 29.5 (2.3) markers per six hours in subjects without cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy compared with 17.8 (2.3) markers per six hours in patients with cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy (p < 0.02). Gall bladder emptying in response to graded CCK8 stimulation was impaired in five of 11 patients with cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy, whereas it was normal in the patients without cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy (p < 0.01). Oral caecal transit times were not significantly different in the two patient groups, whereas colonic transit was slower in the patients with cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy compared with the group without cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy (p < 0.02). There was no correlation between disturbed gastric clearance, impaired gall bladder contraction, and prolonged colonic transit time in the patients with cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy nor was there a correlation between any disturbed motor function and age or duration of diabetes. It is concluded that autonomic neuropathy can affect motor functions throughout the gastro-intestinal tract. Any disturbed motor function in the gut could therefore be one of the numerous expressions of diabetic neuropathy affecting the cardiovascular, the endocrine or the gastrointestinal system.
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