Background & aims: Low doses of erythromycin induce antral contractions and accelerate gastric emptying. However, the effect of erythromycin on the proximal stomach remains unknown. The aim of this study was to assess the effect and mechanism(s) of action of erythromycin on proximal gastric tone in humans.
Methods: Gastric tone was measured using an electronic barostat in two groups of 6 subjects both in the fasting state and after a 200-kcal meal. On different occasions, subjects received saline, atropine alone (6 micrograms.kg-1.h-1 for 30 minutes), erythromycin alone (1.5 mg/kg in the fasting state and 1.5 and 3.0 mg/kg in the postprandial state), and erythromycin plus atropine.
Results: Low-dose (1.5 mg/kg) erythromycin enhanced fasting gastric tone, but only the 3.0-mg/kg dose reduced the duration of meal-induced relaxation (37 +/- 14 vs. 105 +/- 20 minutes; P < 0.01). Atropine did not change the fasting or postprandial gastric tone as well as the erythromycin-induced responses. Plasma motilin levels were unaffected by erythromycin infusion. No correlation was observed between gastric tone and plasma motilin or erythromycin levels.
Conclusions: Erythromycin enhances fasting and postprandial proximal gastric tone in humans by a mechanism that does not seem to involve endogenous motilin release or a cholinergic pathway.