Functional gut disorders: from motility to sensitivity disorders. A review of current and investigational drugs for their management

Pharmacol Ther. 1998 Oct;80(1):49-88. doi: 10.1016/s0163-7258(98)00021-7.


Functional gut disorders include several clinical entities defined on the basis of symptom patterns (e.g., functional dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome, functional abdominal pain, functional abdominal bloating), for which there is no established pathophysiological mechanism. Because there is no well-defined pathophysiological target, treatment should be aimed at symptom improvement. Prokinetics and antispasmodics have been widely used in the treatment of functional gut disorders on the assumption that disordered motility is the underlying cause of symptoms, and symptom improvement is indeed achievable with these compounds in some, but not all, patients with features of hypo- or hypermotility, respectively. In the first part of this review, we cover the basic pharmacology and discuss the rationale for the clinical use of prokinetics and antispasmodics. On the other hand, in the past few years, the explosive growth in the research focusing on visceral sensitivity and visceral reflexes has suggested that at least some patients with functional gut disorders have altered visceral perception. Thus, the second part of the review covers these developments and focuses on studies addressing the issue of drugs modulating visceral sensitivity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / therapeutic use
  • Parasympatholytics / therapeutic use


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Parasympatholytics