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Keywords:

  • anus;
  • physiopathology;
  • autonomic nervous system diseases;
  • botulinum toxin;
  • therapeutic use;
  • enteric nervous system;
  • esophageal achalasia;
  • esophageal diseases;
  • exocytosis;
  • fissure-in-ano;
  • gastric emptying;
  • gastrointestinal motility;
  • membrane fusion;
  • membrane proteins;
  • neuromuscular agents;
  • spasm

Abstract

Local injections of botulinum neurotoxin are now considered an efficacious treatment for neurological and non-neurological conditions. One of the most recent achievements in the field is the observation that botulinum neurotoxin provides benefit in diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Botulinum neurotoxin inhibits contraction of gastrointestinal smooth muscles and sphincters; it has also been shown that the neurotoxin blocks cholinergic nerve endings in the autonomic nervous system, but it does not block nonadrenergic responses mediated by nitric oxide. This aspect has further promoted the interest to use botulinum neurotoxin as a treatment for overactive smooth muscles, such as the anal sphincters to treat anal fissure and outlet-type constipation, or the lower esophageal sphincter to treat esophageal achalasia. Knowledge of the anatomical and functional organization of innervation of the gastrointestinal tract is a prerequisite to understanding many features of botulinum neurotoxin action on the gut and the effects of injections placed into specific sphincters. This review presents current data on the use of botulinum neurotoxin to treat diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and summarizes recent knowledge on the pathogenesis of disorders of the gut due to a dysfunction of the enteric nervous system. © 2004 Movement Disorder Society