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Propagation of giant migrating contractions between the small intestine, cecum and colon during radiation


Address for CorrespondenceMary F. Otterson, MD, MS, Department of Surgery, 9200 W. Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53226, USA.
Tel: +414 805 5734; fax: +414 454 0152;


Background  Radiation increases the frequency of small intestinal and colonic giant migrating contractions (GMCs). These contractions contribute to the diarrhea and cramping after radiation therapy and are coordinated with one another across the ileocolonic (IC) junction.

Methods  We investigated the coordination of contractile activity between the small intestine, cecum and colon in five canines following circumferential myotomy on the ileum at the IC junction and compared it to intact animals. Studies were performed before and during a radiation schedule.

Key Results  Myotomy increased the frequency of small intestinal GMCs prior to irradiation. In intact animals, the duration and amplitude of cecal GMCs decreased when multiple contractions occurred in rapid succession. This is in contrast to small intestinal and colonic GMCs and suggests a different mechanism of propagation for GMCs within the cecum. Ileal myotomy dramatically decreased the frequency of propagating radiation-induced colonic GMCs. The total number of colonic GMCs was not altered. Colonic contractile activity was disrupted in intact animals during irradiation. However, after ileal myotomy, irradiation did not affect the pattern of colonic contractile states. Diarrhea in irradiated animals with myotomy started earlier than intact animals. This may be related to the frequency of small intestinal GMCs.

Conclusions & Inferences  Our findings suggest importance of the enteric neural connections at the IC region to contractile disorders of both the small and large intestine. The anatomic relationship between the canine IC junction is similar to the human ileo-appendiceal-colonic region and surgical manipulations of this area may likewise affect human contractile activity.