Intractable constipation, especially of the slow-transit subtype, may represent several pathophysiologic entities with a common final symptomatic appearance. An overall impairment of colonic propulsive activity may represent a major disease mechanism.
Tertiary university hospital.
Twenty-nine severely constipated patients with clinical and homogeneous features of slow-transit constipation that were unresponsive to conventional medical measures and 16 age-matched healthy volunteers.
Twenty-four–hour manometric recordings obtained in patients and controls to assess high- and low-amplitude colonic propulsive activity.
Compared with controls, patients showed heavily reduced high-amplitude propagated activity (average, <1 event per subject per day). No differences were found in low-amplitude propagated activity.
Patients with severe constipation that is refractory to medical treatment may display an important reduction of colonic forceful propulsive activity. This may justify a surgical approach, which may offer the best results in such patients. It is, however, important to obtain thorough physiologic documentation before such a drastic approach is considered. The residual low-amplitude propulsive activity might represent a partially compensatory mechanism in these patients. Studies in more homogeneous groups of such patients are needed.