Biomechanical properties of the rectal wall were studied in 17 healthy adult volunteers (nine men and eight women). With impedance planimetry it is possible to obtain simultaneous measurements of pressure and rectal cross sectional area (CSA) during balloon inflations. Rectal distensions were done with an intraluminal balloon using specified pressures up to 40 cmH2O above baseline rectal pressure. Balloon inflation elicited a phase of rapid increase in rectal CSA followed by a phase of slow increase until a steady state was reached. Steady state occurred within 67 to 140 seconds with the shortest period at the highest distension pressures. Steady state rectal CSA values had a non-linear relation to increasing distension pressure. Rectal CSA values in women showed a tendency of being slightly higher than male values at all pressure steps with a significant difference at 3 and 5 cm H2O. Biomechanical parameters were calculated from rectal CSA pressure relations. Circumferential wall tension increased in a linear way. Rectal compliance decreased in a non-linear way with no further decline between 30 and 40 cmH2O. The pressure elastic modulus increased steeply until a distension pressure of 35 cmH2O with no further increase to 40 cmH2O. This suggests that rectal tone is reduced as the muscle fails to resist further distension at 35 cmH2O and higher pressures. Impedance planimetry offers new possibilities for investigation of anorectal physiology through the study of segmental biomechanical wall properties of the human rectum.
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