The transit of dosage forms through the small intestine

Int J Pharm. 2010 Aug 16;395(1-2):9-16. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpharm.2010.04.045. Epub 2010 May 15.


The human small intestine, with its enormous absorptive surface area, is invariably the principal site of drug absorption. Hence, the residence time of a dosage form in this part of the gut can have a great influence on the absorption of the contained drug. Various methods have been employed to monitor the gastrointestinal transit of pharmaceutical dosage forms, but the use of gamma-scintigraphy has superceded all the other methods. However, careful consideration of the time interval for image acquisition and proper analysis of the scintigraphic data are important for obtaining reliable results. Most studies reported the mean small intestinal transit time of various dosage forms to be about 3-4h, being closely similar to that of food and water. The value does not appear to be influenced by their physical state nor the presence of food, but the timing of food intake following administration of the dosage forms can influence the small intestinal transit time. While the mean small intestinal transit time is quite consistent among dosage forms and studies, individual values can vary widely. There are differing opinions regarding the effect of density and size of dosage forms on their small intestinal transit properties. Some common excipients employed in pharmaceutical formulations can affect the small intestinal transit and drug absorption. There is currently a lack of studies regarding the effects of excipients, as well as the timing of food intake on the small intestinal transit of dosage forms and drug absorption.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Chemistry, Pharmaceutical
  • Dosage Forms*
  • Drug Compounding
  • Eating
  • Excipients / pharmacology
  • Gastrointestinal Transit* / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption* / drug effects
  • Intestine, Small / diagnostic imaging
  • Intestine, Small / drug effects
  • Intestine, Small / physiology*
  • Particle Size
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design


  • Dosage Forms
  • Excipients