Author(s): Emmanuel AV, Chung EA, Kamm MA, Middleton F
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Abstract STUDY DESIGN: Investigation of bowel function in 55 patients and 26 healthy volunteers using radiological, anorectal physiological and laser Doppler blood flow monitoring. OBJECTIVES: Bowel dysfunction is common after spinal cord injury (SCI). We aimed to determine whether hindgut testing of autonomic innervation provides insight into presence of symptoms, altered motor function (transit) and level of injury. SETTING: St Mark's Hospital, UK and The Spinal Injuries Unit, Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, UK. METHODS: A total of 55 patients with chronic complete SCI and 26 healthy volunteers were studied. Twenty-four patients had lesions above T5 and 31 had lesions below T5. Thirty-five patients complained of constipation: 75\% (18/24) of patients with lesions above T5 and 55\% (17/31) of those with lesions below T5. Gut transit, rectal electrosensitivity and rectal blood flow were measured. RESULTS: Slow gut transit occurred in 65\% of patients and in all the 35 patients complaining of constipation. Delay was pancolonic. All patients had an elevated sensory threshold. The threshold was significantly higher in those with subjective constipation (P<0.01), slow transit (P<0.04) and high SCI (P=0.046). Mucosal blood flow was lower in SCI patients with constipation (P<0.04) and slow transit (P<0.03). It was higher than normal in high-SCI volunteers (P=0.056), reflecting loss of sympathetic inhibition. CONCLUSIONS: In SCI, subjective constipation correlates closely with slow gut transit. Delay is pancolonic, regardless of the site of lesion. Sensory testing provides evidence for completeness of lesion, offering further evidence for pain transmission through sympathetic pathways. Studies in SCI patients provide further evidence of mucosal blood flow as a marker of altered autonomic innervation.
This article was published in Spinal Cord
and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy