Background: Chronic constipation is a frequent symptom among the general population, and a minority of cases do not respond to any therapeutic measures, except surgery. The purpose of this study was to test the residual colonic motor propulsive activity with a pharmacologic stimulus in a series of patients referred for severe constipation. Patients: Twenty-five chronically constipated patients, slow transit type, age range 16–71 years, unresponsive to conventional medical treatment and referred for functional evaluation, entered the study. Methods: Colonic manometry by means of an endoscopically positioned probe was carried out in all patients. Following a basal recording period, a placebo solution followed by 10 mg bisacodyl solution was infused into the colon through the more proximal recording port. Results: After bisacodyl infusion, about 90% of patients showed a motor response characterized by the appearance (within on average 13 ± 3 min) of one or more high-amplitude propagated contractions, the manometric equivalent of mass movements, and about 75% of these were followed (mean 18.5 ± 4 min) by defecation. Conclusions: Physiological and pharmacological testing of colonic motor activity may be important in severely constipated patients, especially in those labeled as ‘intractable’, in whom more in depth investigation planning may encourage further therapeutic efforts.
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