Objectives: Although no generally effective treatment for proctalgia fugax is known, inhalation of salbutamol has been reported to shorten pain attacks in isolated cases.
Methods: We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial of inhaled salbutamol in 18 patients with proctalgia fugax. The clinical effect was evaluated by recording the duration of severe pain and discomfort during acute attacks. In addition, anorectal motility recordings were analyzed for possible changes in anal resting tone, sphincter relaxation during rectal distension and in rectal compliance prior to and following administration of the two test substances.
Results: Sixteen patients completed all investigations. Compared to placebo, salbutamol inhalation shortened the duration of severe pain (p = 0.019). The effect was most marked in patients having prolonged attacks. In the asymptomatic state, neither salbutamol nor placebo led to a significant change in anal resting pressure, anal relaxation during rectal distension, or rectal compliance. Salbutamol also did not alter the threshold for rectal sensation.
Conclusions: Salbutamol inhalation shortens attacks of severe pain in patients with proctalgia fugax. The mechanism of this effect remains unexplained.