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Scand J Gastroenterol. 1993 Jul;28(7):638-42.

Autonomic vagal nerve dysfunction in patients with ulcerative colitis.

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  • 1Dept. of Medicine, Malm√∂ General Hospital, Lund University, Sweden.


Autonomic nerve function was evaluated in 40 patients with total ulcerative colitis and in 25 patients with irritable bowel syndrome by three established non-invasive tests based on the heart reactions to deep breathing (E/I ratio) and tilt (acceleration and brake index). None of the patients were diabetic. Most of the patients with ulcerative colitis were clinically and biochemically inactive; 10 had previously undergone colectomy. The results were compared with a control group consisting of 56 healthy individuals and 33 previously investigated patients with Crohn's disease, 45% of whom demonstrated autonomic neuropathy (AN). Patients with ulcerative colitis had a significantly lower E/I ratio than controls in age-corrected values, indicating vagal nerve dysfunction. Altogether, 35% had signs of AN. In patients with irritable bowel syndrome 36% had evidence of AN, a figure in agreement with observations from other investigators. We conclude that AN is common in patients with ulcerative colitis, regardless of disease activity and previous colectomy. In contrast to a predominantly sympathetic dysfunction in Crohn's disease, AN in ulcerative colitis was vagal.

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