Immunotherapy trial as diagnostic test in evaluating patients with presumed autoimmune gastrointestinal dysmotility

E. P. Flanagan, Y. A. Saito, V. A. Lennon, A. McKeon, R. D. Fealey, L. A. Szarka, J. A. Murray, A. E. Foxx-Orenstein, J. C. Fox, S. J. Pittock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Chronic gastrointestinal dysmotility greatly impacts the quality of life. Treatment options are limited and generally symptomatic. Neural autoimmunity is an under-recognized etiology. We evaluated immunotherapy as an aid to diagnosing autoimmune gastrointestinal dysmotility (AGID).

METHODS: Twenty-three subjects evaluated at the Mayo Clinic for suspected AGID (August 2006-February 2014) fulfilled the following criteria: (1) prominent symptoms of gastrointestinal dysmotility with abnormalities on scintigraphy-manometry; (2) serological evidence or personal/family history of autoimmune disease; (3) treated by immunotherapy on a trial basis, 6-12 weeks (intravenous immune globulin, 16; or methylprednisolone, 5; or both, 2). Response was defined subjectively (symptomatic improvement) and objectively (gastrointestinal scintigraphy/manometry studies).

KEY RESULTS: Symptoms at presentation: constipation, 18/23; nausea or vomiting, 18/23; weight loss, 17/23; bloating, 13/23; and early satiety, 4/23. Thirteen patients had personal/family history of autoimmunity. Sixteen had neural autoantibodies and 19 had extra-intestinal autonomic testing abnormalities. Cancer was detected in three patients. Preimmunotherapy scintigraphy revealed slowed transit (19/21 evaluated; gastric, 11; small bowel, 12; colonic, 11); manometry studies were abnormal in 7/8. Postimmunotherapy, 17 (74%) had improvement (both symptomatic and scintigraphic, five; symptomatic alone, eight; scintigraphic alone, four). Nine responders re-evaluated had scintigraphic evidence of improvement. The majority of responders who were re-evaluated had improvement in autonomic testing (six of seven) or manometry (two of two).

CONCLUSIONS & INFERENCES: This proof of principle study illustrates the importance of considering an autoimmune basis for idiopathic gastrointestinal dysmotility and supports the utility of a diagnostic trial of immunotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1285-1297
Number of pages13
JournalNeurogastroenterology and motility : the official journal of the European Gastrointestinal Motility Society
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014


  • autonomic nervous system
  • autonomic neuropathy
  • celiac disease
  • immunoglobulin
  • scintigraphy
  • thyroid disease
  • transit study

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Gastroenterology


Dive into the research topics of 'Immunotherapy trial as diagnostic test in evaluating patients with presumed autoimmune gastrointestinal dysmotility'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this