The effects of an antibacterially effective IV dose of erythromycin on gastrointestinal motor activity were investigated in eight normal healthy human volunteers in the fasted state and the fed state. Motor activity was recorded by a multilumen manometric tube. Data were analyzed visually and by a computer method. Blood samples were obtained for erythromycin and motilin assays. In the gastric antrum, erythromycin significantly increased the total duration, amplitude, and area under contractions from 0 to 60 minutes and frequency of contractions from 0 to 30 minutes from the start of its infusion in the fasted state. A similar response in the fed state occurred mostly from 0 to 30 minutes after the start of erythromycin infusion. By contrast, erythromycin inhibited the frequency and decreased the duration of small intestinal contractions in the fed state but had no effect in the fasted state. The gastric motor response was related to the plasma concentration of erythromycin, but not to plasma motilin. Erythromycin significantly shortened the duration of migrating motor complex disruption by a meal. Erythromycin also induced symptoms of upper abdominal pain, bloating, and nausea. Abdominal pain was related to strong antral contractions in both fasted and fed states; bloating occurred only in the fed state. Nausea occurred in both fasted and fed states, but it was not related to any specific pattern of motor activity. It is concluded that the strong antral contractions induced by erythromycin may accelerate the rate of gastric emptying, but they may also be responsible for causing the sensations of upper abdominal pain and bloating. The motor response to erythromycin is less during the fed than during the fasted state. The strong antral contractions induced by erythromycin are not mediated by the release of motilin.
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