It is not yet clear whether the regional differences in the physical properties of the colon influence its motor responses. Tonic and phasic colonic motility and compliance of the transverse and sigmoid colon were therefore assessed using a combined barostat-manometry assembly in 22 healthy subjects. Measured colonic compliance was corrected by subtraction of the compliance of the closed barostat system. The mean (SEM) preprandial colonic volumes in the transverse and sigmoid colon were similar (150 (12) and 128 (13) ml, p = NS), corresponding to calculated mean (SEM) colonic diameters of 4.3 cm and 4.0 cm respectively. The mean increase in colonic tone postprandially was significantly greater in the transverse (24.1% (3.5)) than in the sigmoid colon (13.1% (3.0), p < 0.01). The mean increase in phasic contractility was significantly greater, however, in the sigmoid than in the transverse colon (1270 (210) and 425 (60) mm Hg/90 min respectively, p < 0.01). Compliance was greater in the transverse than sigmoid colon (7.6 (0.44) and 4.1 (0.15) ml/mm Hg, p < 0.001). The fasting volume of the colon was significantly correlated with the magnitude of the tonic response to the meal in the transverse and sigmoid colon (p < 0.001 for both). In conclusion, there are quantitatively different but qualitatively similar phasic and tonic responses to the meal in the two colonic regions. Differences in the viscoelastic and luminal dimensions may partly account for these differences in tonic responses.
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