Preprandial and postprandial colonic motility and transit (scintigraphy), with respect to the splenic flexure, were studied in 10 patients with ulcerative colitis and in 9 healthy subjects. The healthy subjects had a postprandial increase in intraluminal pressure that was significantly (P < 0.03) greater in the descending colon than in other regions of the colon. In ulcerative colitis, the pressure was decreased in all regions compared with healthy subjects, with no significant pressure gradient among different regions. In normal subjects, transit was quiescent during fasting; eating stimulated both antegrade and retrograde transit. In ulcerative colitis, transit was variable before as well as after the meal. Both healthy subjects and patients with ulcerative colitis had more rapid emptying from the splenic flexure into the sigmoid than into the transverse colon. More frequent, low-amplitude, postprandial propagating contractions occurred in ulcerative colitis (P < 0.05) than in healthy subjects. Propagating contractions were always antegrade and caused a rapid movement of the tracer into the sigmoid. In conclusion, ulcerative colitis is characterized by (a) decreased contractility, (b) increased low-amplitude propagating contractions, and (c) variable transit. These disturbances may accentuate the diarrhea in ulcerative colitis.
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