Objective Colonic transit studies are used to diagnose slow transit constipation (STC) and to evaluate segmental colonic transit before segmental or subtotal colectomy. The aim of the study was to compare a single X-ray radio-opaque marker method with a scintigraphic technique to assess total and segmental colonic transit in patients with STC.
Method Thirty-one female patients (median age 46 years) with severe constipation and a prolonged or borderline prolonged colonic transit time on radio-opaque marker study were included in the study. They were subsequently investigated with 111Indium-DTPA colonic transit scintigraphy, with a median time between the investigations of 4(range 1–27) months. Normal values of healthy female controls were used for comparison.
Results There was no difference between the two methods in terms of prolonged or normal total colonic transit time. Twenty-nine of 31 female patients had a prolonged transit time only in one or two segments on the marker study. On scintigraphy, the transit time was prolonged for patients in the left (P < 0.05 to P < 0.001), but not in the right colon. With respect to prolonged or normal segmental transit time, there was a significant difference between the two methods only in the descending colon (P = 0.02). However, the results varied considerably for individual patients.
Conclusion Segmental colonic delay was a common finding. The two methods gave similar results for groups of patients, except in the descending colon. The variation of the results for individuals suggests that a repeated transit test may improve the assessment of total and segmental transit.