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Clin Nutr. 2008 Feb;27(1):25-41. Epub 2007 Oct 22.

Standardized concept for the treatment of gastrointestinal dysmotility in critically ill patients--current status and future options.

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Department of Anaesthesiology, University of Wuerzburg, Oberduerrbacher Str. 6, 97080 Wuerzburg, Germany.


Inhibition of gastrointestinal motility is a major problem in critically ill patients. Motor stasis gives rise to subsequent complications including intolerance to enteral feeding, enhanced permeability of the atrophic intestinal mucosa and conditions as severe as systemic inflammatory response syndrome, sepsis and multiple organ failure. Although the diagnosis of motility disturbances in critically ill patients is difficult, the type and site of the disturbance are important to consider in the analysis of the condition and in the choice of therapeutic approach. The pharmacological treatment of impaired gastrointestinal motility is difficult to handle for the clinician, because the underlying mechanisms are complex and not fully understood and the availability of pharmacological treatment options is limited. In addition, there is a lack of controlled studies on which to build an evidence-based treatment concept for critically ill patients. Notwithstanding this situation, there has been remarkable progress in the understanding of the integrated regulation of gastrointestinal motility in health and disease. These advances, which largely relate to the organization of the enteric nervous system and its signaling mechanisms, enable the intensivist to develop a standardized concept for the use of prokinetic agents in the treatment of impaired gastrointestinal motility in critically ill patients.

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