Effect of rectal distension on abdominal girth

B. Marino, C. Ogliari, G. Basilisco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It has been postulated that a viscerosomatic reflex activated by gut distension and inhibiting abdominal wall muscle tone may be one of the mechanisms underlying functional abdominal distension. Any demonstration of such a reflex has to take into account the fact that gut distension may increase abdominal girth as a result of volume displacement. As biomechanical and sensory rectal responses vary at different rates of rectal distension, we hypothesized that different rates of rectal distension might reveal different changes in abdominal girth. Abdominal girth was continuously recorded in 14 healthy subjects using a previously validated extensometer. The rectal distensions were made in a randomized order at rates of 100 mL min-1 or 10 mL min -1 up to 150 mL, and sham distensions were used as controls. An increase in abdominal girth was observed at the end of both distensions (P ≤ 0.008): it was greater after the fast (1.1 ± 0.5 mm) than after the slow distension (0.8 ± 0.7 mm), but this difference was not statistically significant (P = 0.2). In conclusion, we were unable to demonstrate the existence of a viscerosomatic reflex activated by gut distension under our experimental conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-502
Number of pages6
JournalNeurogastroenterology and Motility
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2004


  • Abdominal girth
  • Rectal distension
  • Viscerosomatic reflex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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