Mechanisms and potential applications of intestinal electrical stimulation

Dig Dis Sci. 2010 May;55(5):1208-20. doi: 10.1007/s10620-009-0884-3. Epub 2009 Jul 23.


Purpose: Electrical stimulation of the gut has recently been under intensive investigation and various studies have revealed therapeutic potentials of gastrointestinal electrical stimulation for gastrointestinal motility disorders and obesity. While there have been a number of reviews on gastric electrical stimulation, there is a lack of systematic reviews on intestinal electrical stimulation. The aim of this review is to provide an overview on the effects, mechanisms, and applications of intestinal electrical stimulation.

Results: We evaluated published data on intestinal electrophysiology, pathophysiology, and different methodologies on intestinal electrical stimulation and its possible mechanisms in both research and clinical settings using the MEDLINE database for English articles from 1963 to 2008. Based on this systematic review, intestinal electrical stimulation has been reported to alter intestinal slow waves, contractions and transit; the effects were mediated via both vagal and adrenergic pathways. Intestinal electrical stimulation has been reported to have potentials for treating various intestinal motility disorders and obesity.

Conclusions: It is concluded that intestinal electrical stimulation may have promising applications for treating motility disorders associated with altered intestinal contractile activity. The most recent studies have revealed possible applications of intestinal electrical stimulation for the treatment of obesity. Basic research results are promising; however, further clinical studies are needed to bring IES from bench to bedside.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / therapy*
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / physiology
  • Humans
  • Intestines / innervation*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Obesity / therapy*