BACKGROUND/AIMS: The focal nature of gastric ulcers raises the possibility of underlying regional disturbances in gastric mucosal microcirculation. This study employed fluorescent in vivo microscopy with the aim of directly investigating the response of several areas of the gastric mucosa to 60% ethanol. METHODS: Changes in macromolecular leakage of fluorescein labelled albumin, vessel diameter, and acridine red labelled leucocyte adhesion and rolling were assessed over a period of two hours. A total of 0.5 ml 60% ethanol was topically applied for five minutes to the exteriorised gastric mucosa of anaesthetised rats. RATS: Three distinct patterns of response were found. Areas of lesion formation were small and occurred within five minutes. These areas showed persistent blood flow stasis throughout the course of the experiment, increased leakage (p < 0.02), and no leucocyte adhesion. Peripheral to the lesion, sustained leakage (p < 0.02) was found with adherence of leucocytes (p < 0.01) after lesion formation. Sites more remote to any lesion showed transient leakage and significant numbers of 'rolling' leucocytes (p < 0.01) were observed again after the lesion had formed. CONCLUSIONS: Despite widespread exposure of the entire gastric mucosa to 60% ethanol the resultant mucosal injury was limited. Widespread vascular damage was found reflected by macromolecular leakage, the pattern of which showed regional variation.
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