Rectal tone, distensibility, and perception: Reproducibility and response to different distensions

H. F. Hammer, S. F. Phillips, M. Camilleri, R. B. Hanson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Scopus citations


Increasing interest is focusing on the role of intestinal tone, distensibility, and mechanosensation in the genesis of abdominal symptoms. Experimental approaches usually feature balloon distension of the bowel with measurements of perception, tone, and compliance and/or elastance; however, the methodologies are standardized incompletely. We examined the reproducibility of repeated assessments of sensory perception; basal tone, and compliance and/or elastance of the rectum during distension. We also evaluated the response to inflations that varied in regard to control of pressure or volume, pattern of distension, and rate of inflation. Five healthy volunteers were studied under two separate protocols. The first featured a series of experiments on each of 5 days; the other consisted of 2 separate days of study. Repeated distensions evoked reproducible responses of sensation and compliance and/or elastance on a single day, providing a conditioning distension preceded them. Day-to-day variability was also sufficiently small to allow valid comparisons to be made on different days in healthy persons. The configuration of the distension profile (phasic, staircase, or ramp) and the rate of inflation (from 1 to 40 ml/s) had little effect on distensibility or perception. Perceptions were sometimes transient and sometimes constant, but no relationship was found between these temporal features and the magnitude of the stimulus. These observations help provide a basis as to how the responses to rectal distension can be best studied.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)G584-G590
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number3 37-3
StatePublished - Mar 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Rectal barostat
  • Rectal compliance
  • Rectal sensation


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