Prokinetic agents for lower gastrointestinal motility disorders

Dis Colon Rectum. 1993 Jul;36(7):696-708. doi: 10.1007/BF02238599.


Prokinetic agents are currently being investigated as potential therapies for motility disorders of the lower gastrointestinal tract. Cholinergic agonists such as bethanechol are known to improve postoperative ileus but are limited because of side effects. Dopamine antagonists such as domperidone appear to have maximal prokinetic effect in the proximal gastrointestinal tract and are effective for such conditions as gastroparesis and gastroesophageal reflux, but they appear to have little physiologic effect in the colon or in colonic motility disorders. Naloxone, an opioid antagonist, appears to hold promise in patients with irritable bowel syndrome, small intestinal pseudo-obstruction, and constipation. Erythromycin exerts its prokinetic effect by acting as a motilin agonist; it has been used in the treatment of diabetic gastroparesis and appears to improve symptoms of colonic pseudo-obstruction and postoperative ileus. Metoclopramide, a combined cholinergic agonist and dopamine antagonist, is currently used exclusively for proximal motility dysfunction. Cisapride appears to hold the most promise for patients with colonic motility disorders. In patients with postoperative ileus, cisapride is associated with an increased return of bowel function compared with placebo. In patients with chronic constipation, cisapride increases stool frequency and decreases laxative abuse in both adults and children. Hopefully, as an understanding of gastrointestinal motility increases, effective prokinetic agents will be developed that will improve symptoms of patients with large bowel motility disorders and may also help to predict those patients who benefit from surgical management for constipation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gastrointestinal Motility / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Diseases / drug therapy*