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Hum Pathol. 2006 Oct;37(10):1252-8. Epub 2006 Jul 20.

Enteric neuropathology of the terminal ileum in patients with intractable slow-transit constipation.

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  • 1Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Clinic of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of Perugia, Via Enrico Dal Pozzo, Padiglione W, 06100 Perugia, Italy.


Slow-transit constipation is usually considered a colonic motor disorder. However, there is some evidence that abnormalities may be present in locations other than the colon. In particular, several studies have reported abnormal motor activity of the small bowel in these patients. We evaluated the neuropathological aspects of the terminal ileum in patients with slow-transit constipation to see whether abnormalities are present that may explain an abnormal motility of the small intestine. Specimens of the terminal ileum were obtained from 16 female patients (age range, 42-76 years) with slow-transit constipation undergoing surgery for intractable symptoms. Fifteen age- and sex-matched controls were used for comparison. Histologic and immunohistochemical evaluation of the myenteric plexus and the smooth muscle of the proximal ileal resection margin was carried out by means of hematoxylin and eosin, trichrome and periodic acid-Schiff stain, neuron-specific enolase, S-100, CD117, CD34, anti-alpha-actin, desmin, and vimentin antibodies. The patient group displayed a significantly reduced number of glial cells, compared with controls, in both the submucosal and the myenteric plexus. Only 1 of the 3 populations of interstitial cells of Cajal (that associated with the deep muscular plexus) was decreased in patients. No differences were found between patients and controls concerning ganglia neurons, fibroblast-like cells, enteric neurons, apoptotic phenomena, and smooth muscle. Patients with slow-transit constipation display neuropathological abnormalities of the terminal ileum to a lesser extent than those we previously found in the colon, which might explain the abnormal motor aspects sometimes found in these patients.

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