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Viscoelastic properties of the human colon.

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  • 1Gastroenterology Research Unit and Enteric Neurosciences Program, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA.


Our objectives were to characterize colonic viscoelastic properties of the human descending colon by assessing pressure-volume (P-V) relationships during barostatic balloon distension. In 16 healthy subjects, a balloon was inflated to 44 mmHg and then deflated to 0 mmHg in 4-mmHg steps at 10, 30, and 60 ml/min, allowing volume fluctuations to stabilize at each pressure increment. Thereafter, these "quasi-static" P-V curves were compared with "dynamic" distensions to 300 ml, at 1 and 10 ml/s, before and after intravenous atropine in another five subjects. During quasi-static curves, balloon volume stabilized at each pressure increment. Quasi-static P-V curves were reproducible within individuals and approximated to a power exponential function and revealed hysteresis, indicative of viscoelasticity. Body mass index influenced quasi-static P-V curves during inflation but not during deflation. The colon was less compliant during dynamic distensions at 10 ml/s than during quasi-static distensions. Atropine increased quasi-static compliance and attenuated differences between quasi-static and rapid distensions. We conclude that colonic viscoelastic properties can be assessed by quasi-static P-V curves. Rapid colonic distension activated neural reflexes, thereby reducing colonic compliance compared with quasi-static distensions.

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