Characterization of motor patterns in isolated human colon: are there differences in patients with slow-transit constipation?

Nicholas Spencer, Melinda Kyloh, David Wattchow, Anthony Thomas, Tiong Sia, Simon Brookes, Sarah Nicholas

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    The patterns of motor activity that exist in isolated full-length human colon have not been described. Our aim was to characterize the spontaneous motor patterns in isolated human colon and determine whether these patterns are different in whole colons obtained from patients with slow-transit constipation (STC). The entire colon (excluding the anus), was removed from patients with confirmed STC and mounted longitudinally in an organ bath ~120 cm in length, containing oxygenated Krebs' solution at 36°C. Changes in circular muscle tension were recorded from multiple sites simultaneously along the length of colon, by use of isometric force transducers. Recordings from isolated colons from non-STC patients revealed cyclical colonic motor complexes (CMCs) in 11 of 17 colons, with a mean interval and half-duration of contractions of 4.0 ± 0.6 min and 51.5 ± 15 s, respectively. In the remaining six colons, spontaneous irregular phasic contractions occurred without CMCs. Interestingly, in STC patients robust CMCs were still recorded, although their CMC pacemaker frequencies were slower. Intraluminal balloon distension of the ascending or descending colon evoked an ascending excitatory reflex contraction, or evoked CMC, in 8 of 30 trials from non-STC (control) colons, but not from colons obtained from STC patients. In many control segments of descending colon, spontaneous CMCs consisted of simultaneous ascending excitatory and descending inhibitory phases. In summary, CMCs can be recorded from isolated human colon, in vitro, but their intrinsic pacemaker frequency is considerably faster in vitro compared with previous human recordings of CMCs in vivo. The observation that CMCs occur in whole colons removed from STC patients suggests that the intrinsic pacemaker mechanisms underlying their generation and propagation are preserved in vitro, despite impaired transit along these same regions in vivo.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)G34-G43
    Number of pages10
    JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


    • Colonic motor complex
    • Human colon
    • Peristaltic reflex


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