Background: Rectal sensory thresholds are lowered in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), reflecting visceral hyperlagesia, which might be related to subclinical inflammation.
Aim: To evaluate the effects of an intraluminal injection of glycerol, a mucosal irritant, on rectal tone and perception of distension in 12 healthy subjects.
Methods: Rectal tone was evaluated with a barostat. First sensation, need to defecate and pain thresholds were evaluated during isobaric phasic distensions, before and 20 and 120 min after injection of 10 ml glycerol in the rectum.
Results: Baseline bag volume (97.9 +/- 56.2 ml) significantly decreased 20 min (49.7 +/- 42.2 ml; P= 0.026) and 120 min (66.5 +/- 38.3 ml; P= 0.050) after injection of glycerol, indicating its hypertonic effect. The pressure defining sensory thresholds was decreased significantly 20 min after glycerol injection: first sensation, 14.6 +/- 2.9 versus 18.3 +/- 7.2 mm Hg (P = 0.01); need to defecate, 19.6 +/- 3.7 versus 26.0 +/- 6.9 mm Hg; pain, 23.8 +/- 4.5 versus 35.6 +/- 9.5 mm Hg (P = 0.001). This effect was maintained for 120 min after injection of glycerol. Slopes of the compliance curves did not differ before and after injection of glycerol.
Conclusions: Intraluminal injection of glycerol significantly increases rectal tone and sensitizes healthy volunteers to rectal distension, since they show significantly lower thresholds after glycerol. This could constitute a model of visceral hypersensitivity in healthy volunteers.