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Abnormal Colonic Motility in Progressive Systemic Sclerosis

WILLIAM M. BATTLE, M.D.; WILLIAM J. SNAPE Jr., M.D.; SCOTT WRIGHT, M.D.; MARK A. SULLIVAN, M.D.; SIDNEY COHEN, M.D.; ALAN MEYERS, M.D.; and RALPH TUTHILL, M.D.
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Grant support: by research grant RO1AM 19379 and research grant 5MO1 RR 00040 to the Clinical Research Center of the University of Pennsylvania from the National Institutes of Health.

▸Requests for reprints should be addressed to William J. Snape, Jr., M.D.; Gastrointestinal Section, Department of Medicine, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, 3600 Spruce Street; Philadelphia, PA 19104.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


© 1981 American College of PhysiciansAmerican College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1981;94(6):749-752. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-94-6-749
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Progressive systemic sclerosis alters smooth muscle function throughout the gastrointestinal tract. In 10 consecutive patients with the disease, colonic spike activity and contractile activity were measured after a 1000-kcal meal, intramuscular injection of neostigmine, or intravenous injection of metoclopramide. The 1000-kcal meal stimulated a significant increase in spike and contractile activity in normal subjects. Nine of the 10 patients had no increase in motility after eating. Neostigmine or metoclopramide stimulated colonic spike (p < 0.01) and contractile (p < 0.02) activity in normal subjects and stimulated colonic motility (p < 0.01) in four of 10 patients with less severe systemic manifestations of the disease (Group I). The drugs had no effect on patients with severe progressive systemic sclerosis (Group II). The patients with severe scleroderma had significant gastrointestinal roentgenographic abnormalities and severe cardiac, renal, or pulmonary dysfunction. Four of six Group II patients died from the disease; all four had marked smooth muscle atrophy in the colonic wall. These findings suggest that the gastrocolonic response is absent early in the disease process and that the smooth muscle atrophy occurring with progression of the disease may lead to a more severe colonic motor disturbance.

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