Sympathetic (electrodermal) activity during repeated maximal rectal distensions in patients with irritable bowel syndrome and constipation.Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2008 Jan; 20(1):43-52.NM
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is associated with visceral hypersensitivity, stress and autonomic dysfunction. Sympathetic activity during repeated events indicates excitatory or inhibitory mechanisms such as sensitization or habituation. We investigated skin conductance (SC) during repetitive rectal distensions at maximal tolerable pressure in patients with IBS and chronic constipation. Twenty-seven IBS patients, 13 constipation patients and 18 controls underwent two sets of isobaric rectal distensions. First, maximal tolerable distension was determined and then it was repeated five times. Skin conductance was measured continuously. Subjective symptom assessment remained steady in all groups. The baseline values of SC were higher in IBS patients than in patients with constipation and significantly lower in constipation patients than in controls. The maximal SC response to repetitive maximal distensions was higher in IBS patients compared with constipation patients. The amplitude of the initial SC response decreased successively with increased number of distensions in patients with IBS and constipation but not in controls. Irritable bowel syndrome and constipation patients habituated to maximal repetitive rectal distensions with decreasing sympathetic activity. Irritable bowel syndrome patients had higher sympathetic reactivity and baseline activity than constipation patients. A lower basal SC in constipation patients compared with controls suggests an inhibition of the sympathetic drive in constipation patients.