The small intestinal motor effects of fractionated doses of ionizing radiation were studied in 6 conscious dogs. Eight strain-gauge transducers were implanted on the small intestine and a single gauge on the ascending colon, of each dog. After control recordings, an abdominal dose of 250 cGy was administered three times a week on alternate days for 3 successive weeks (total dose, 2250 cGy). Recordings were then made for 4 wk of follow-up. Giant migrating contractions occurred 11 times in 520 h of control recordings in the fasted and fed state, with a mean distance of origin of 55 ± 16 cm from the ileocolonic junction. Abdominal field irradiation significantly increased the incidence and distance of origin of these giant contractions to 438 in 745 recording hours and 158 ± 7 cm from the ileocolonic junction, respectively. The incidence of giant migrating contractions peaked after the second dose of radiation. The amplitude ratio of radiation-induced giant migrating contractions to phase III contractions, and their duration and velocity of migration, were similar to the control state. The dogs developed diarrhea and vomiting as early as the first fraction of radiation. Irradiation also increased the incidence of retrograde giant contractions from 8 in 520 h of control recording to 42 in 745 h of recording during the radiation schedule. The radiation-induced retrograde giant contractions peaked in incidence on the day of the first fraction of radiation and were more likely to be associated with a vomiting episode than those occurring in the control period. Migrating motor complex cycling persisted during radiation and its cycle length was not different from the control or postradiation values. Our findings suggest that some of the side effects of radiation such as diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and vomiting may be related to the dramatically increased incidence of giant migrating contractions and retrograde giant contractions.
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