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Meal induced rectosigmoid tone modification: a low caloric meal accurately separates functional and organic gastrointestinal disease patients
  1. M Di Stefano,
  2. E Miceli,
  3. A Missanelli,
  4. S Mazzocchi,
  5. G R Corazza
  1. I Department of Medicine, IRCCS “S Matteo” Hospital, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy
  1. Correspondence to:
    Professor G R Corazza
    I Department of Medicine, IRCCS “S. Matteo” Hospital, University of Pavia, P le Golgi 5, 27100, Pavia, Italy; gr.corazza{at}


Background and aims: Diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is based on arbitrary criteria due to the lack of an accurate diagnostic test. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether rectosigmoid tone modification after a meal represents an accurate diagnostic approach.

Methods: In a secondary care setting, 32 constipation predominant and 24 diarrhoea predominant IBS patients, 10 functional diarrhoea and 10 functional constipation patients, 29 organic gastrointestinal disease patients, and 10 healthy volunteers underwent a rectal barostat test to measure fasting and postprandial rectosigmoid tone. Rectosigmoid response was assessed following three meals containing different amounts of calories: 200 kcal, 400 kcal and 1000 kcal.

Results: After 200 kcal, healthy volunteers and patients with organic diseases showed a reduction in rectosigmoid volume of at least 28% of fasting volume, indicating a meal induced increase in muscle tone. In contrast, patients with diarrhoea predominant IBS showed dilation of the rectosigmoid colon, indicative of reduced tone, and patients with constipation predominant IBS showed a mild volume reduction or no modification. Functional diarrhoea and constipation patients showed rectosigmoid tone modification resembling that of the corresponding IBS subtype. A 400 kcal meal normalised rectosigmoid tone in more than half of the constipation predominant IBS patients but none of the diarrhoea predominant IBS patients. In contrast, a 1000 kcal meal normalised tone response in all IBS patients. Sensitivity of the test was 100%, specificity 93%, positive predictive value 96%, and negative predictive value 100%.

Conclusion: A postprandial reduction in rectosigmoid tone of at least 28% of fasting value after a low caloric meal accurately separates organic and functional gastrointestinal disease patients. This parameter may therefore be used in the positive diagnosis of IBS.

  • IBS, irritable bowel syndrome
  • IBS-C, constipation predominant irritable bowel syndrome
  • IBS-D, diarrhoea predominant irritable bowel syndrome
  • 5-HT, 5-hydroxytryptamine
  • MDP, minimal distending pressure
  • functional bowel disorders
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • visceral sensitivity
  • rectosigmoid tone
  • barostat
  • diagnosis

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