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Multimodal sensory testing of the rectum and rectosigmoid: development and reproducibility of a new method


Professor Asbjørn Mohr Drewes MD, DMSc, PhD, Center for Visceral Biomechanics and Pain, Department of Gastroenterology, Aalborg Hospital, DK-9100 Aalborg, Denmark.
Tel: +45 9932 1111; fax: +45 9932 6507; e-mail:


Abstract  Evaluation of rectal and rectosigmoid sensation is important in basic, clinical and pharmacological studies. New methods to evoke and assess multimodal (electrical, thermal and mechanical) experimental pain of the upper gut activate distinct pathways and mimics clinical pain. The aims of the current study were to characterize the sensory response and reproducibility to multimodal stimulation of rectum and the rectosigmoid. A multimodal rectal probe was developed. Mucosal electrostimulation was delivered at the recto-sigmoid junction. In Rectum, impedance planimetry was used for measurement of cross-sectional area (CSA) during distension. Circulation of water within the bag at either 4 or 60 °C was applied for thermal stimulation. The method was tested in 12 healthy volunteers (six men mean age 32 years) on two subsequent days. Mechanical and sensory responses and referred pain areas were assessed. Stimulation with electrical, thermal and mechanical modalities resulted in different sensory perceptions. The relationship between stimulus intensity and sensory response was linear for all modalities. Sensory response to different modalities did not differ between investigation days (all P-values > 0.1). Approximately 75% of subjects felt referred pain in distinct skin locations. Between-days reproducibility was good for all modalities [intra-class correlation (ICC) ≥0.6]. At sensory threshold, CSA showed best reproducibility (ICC ≥ 0.9). At pain detection threshold stretch ratio, CSA and electrostimulation showed best reproducibility (ICC = 1.0; 0.9; 0.9). The present model was easily implemented, robust and showed good reproducibility. It can be used to study pathophysiology or pharmacological interventions in healthy controls and in patients with diseases involving the distal hindgut.