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Am J Physiol. 1998 Mar;274(3 Pt 1):G584-90.

Rectal tone, distensibility, and perception: reproducibility and response to different distensions.

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Gastroenterology Research Unit, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA.


Increasing interest is focusing on the role of intestinal tone, distensibility, and mechanosensation in the genesis of abdominal symptoms. Experimental approaches usually feature balloon distension of the bowel with measurements of perception, tone, and compliance and/or elastance; however, the methodologies are standardized incompletely. We examined the reproducibility of repeated assessments of sensory perception, basal tone, and compliance and/or elastance of the rectum during distension. We also evaluated the response to inflations that varied in regard to control of pressure or volume, pattern of distension, and rate of inflation. Five healthy volunteers were studied under two separate protocols. The first featured a series of experiments on each of 5 days; the other consisted of 2 separate days of study. Repeated distensions evoked reproducible responses of sensation and compliance and/or elastance on a single day, providing a conditioning distension preceded them. Day-to-day variability was also sufficiently small to allow valid comparisons to be made on different days in healthy persons. The configuration of the distension profile (phasic, staircase, or ramp) and the rate of inflation (from 1 to 40 ml/s) had little effect on distensibility or perception. Perceptions were sometimes transient and sometimes constant, but no relationship was found between these temporal features and the magnitude of the stimulus. These observations help provide a basis as to how the responses to rectal distension can be best studied.

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