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Am J Gastroenterol. 1994 Apr;89(4):550-5.

Effect of erythromycin on gastric and gallbladder emptying and gastrointestinal symptoms in scleroderma patients is maintained medium term.

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Dipartimento di Medicina Clinica, Patologia e Farmacologia, Università degli Studi di Perugia, Italy.



Scleroderma patients frequently present esophageal and gastric emptying abnormalities and small bowel dysfunction. Erythromycin, a macrolide antibiotic, has been found to accelerate gastric and gallbladder emptying in both healthy subjects and diabetic patients. Our objective was to investigate the effects of 4-wk oral erythromycin administration on the gastric and gallbladder emptying, gastrointestinal symptoms (early satiety, abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, vomiting, and constipation), and motilin plasma levels of patients with scleroderma.


12 scleroderma patients were investigated before and after 4-wk treatment with 250 mg oral erythromycin three times a day. The effect of a single i.v. dose of 2 mg/kg/h erythromycin on gastric and gallbladder emptying before starting the oral treatment was also evaluated. Gastric and gallbladder emptying after a solid meal were evaluated by sonography.


Single i.v. administration of erythromycin before the meal reduced gastric emptying T1/2 from 121.3 +/- 14.0 to 45.5 +/- 7.3 min (p < 0.01) and accelerated gallbladder emptying without affecting the peak. Four-week oral administration of erythromycin reduced gastric emptying T1/2 from 121.3 +/- 14.0 min to 46.5 +/- 8.3 min (p < 0.01). Peak gallbladder emptying was also significantly accelerated, while total emptying remained unchanged (p < 0.01). Furthermore, 4-wk erythromycin administration reduced both motilin plasma levels (from 223.4 +/- 53.8 to 145.4 +/- 67.2 pmol/L, p < 0.01) and symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain (p < 0.01), and increased bowel movements in a subset of scleroderma patients with intestinal pseudo-obstruction.


Erythromycin stimulates gastrointestinal motility in patients with scleroderma. Administered medium-term, it accelerates gastric and gallbladder emptying and alleviates gastrointestinal symptoms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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