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Gut. 1970 February; 11(2): 91–99.
PMCID: PMC1411356

Propulsion (mass movements) in the human colon and its relationship to meals and somatic activity


Propulsive activity of the human colon was measured with radiopaque markers (shapes), radiotelemetering capsules, Perspex capsules containing 51Cr, or with free 51Cr sodium chromate.

Propulsive activity can be readily detected by these techniques, none of which requires the use of radiological contrast media. With capsules containing 51Cr or with free 51Cr repeated observations can be made in the same patient without recourse to radiography. The patient can remain normally active during the test with encapsulated 51Cr. Repeated observations may also be made with shapes, if films exposed at low mA are used.

It was found that colonic intraluminal pressure activity rises markedly during and after food, but that in the resting patient this increase is rarely associated with propulsive activity. In physically active patients propulsion of colonic contents was significantly increased after meals. When colonic propulsion takes place, it does so by a series of mass movements.

These results suggest that somatic activity is an important factor in the control of colonic transit in health or disease.

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