Gastrointestinal dysmotility in systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) is prevalent in 90% of patients, increasing morbidity and in some cases mortality. The resultant gastrointestinal complications are usually extensive, involving many regions of the gut from the oesophagus to the anus. Collagen replacement of vascular and enteric smooth muscle results in hypomotility, lumen dilatation, tensile rigidity and eventual loss of organ functions.
The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of systemic sclerosis-related gastrointestinal dysmotility and available/potential therapeutic options.
We evaluated published data on the pathophysiology and management of gastrointestinal dysmotility in systemic sclerosis patients using the MEDLINE database for English and non-English articles from 1966 to July 2005.
Based on this systematic review, lifestyle and medical therapy approaches are preferred as they often improve and/or ameliorate symptoms. Surgery is only recommended with serious, rare complications such as bowel perforation or ischaemia.
Alternative therapies such as acupuncture-based therapies are well tolerated, with clinical improvement and may be of potential therapeutic benefit for systemic sclerosis gastrointestinal dysmotility.
Further elucidation of initiating and persistent mechanisms of systemic sclerosis-related gastrointestinal dysmotility will optimize the development of a multidisciplinary and more directed treatment regimen.