Colonic transit has not been compared between patients with slow-transit constipation (STC) arising de novo (idiopathic) and those whose symptoms followed pelvic surgery or childbirth (acquired).


In 48 women, with either idiopathic (n = 36) or acquired (n = 12) STC, 111In-radiolabelled diethylene-triamine penta-acetic acid colonic scintigraphy was performed to determine patterns of delay (generalized or left sided), the ‘severity’ of transit disturbance between subgroups, and the association with age or duration of symptoms. Results were compared with those in healthy women. Patterns of colonic transit disturbance were assessed using previously defined criteria. In those with a generalized delay, variables reflecting the overall rate of isotope progression throughout the colon were calculated: gradient of geometric centre of isotope progression and estimated evacuation time of the isotope.


The pattern of transit delay was similar between the subgroups, but the ‘severity’ of the transit abnormality was significantly worse in those with chronic idiopathic symptoms. In the chronic idiopathic STC subgroup only, there was a significant correlation between both age and duration of symptoms and severity of transit disturbance.


This study demonstrates that differences in colonic transit exist between subgroups of patients with STC. These might be explained by differences in duration of symptoms or differences in aetiology. © 2001 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd