Variations in muscle tone of the human rectum: Recordings with an electromechanical barostat

A. M. Bell, J. H. Pemberton, R. B. Hanson, A. R. Zinsmeister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Rectal wall tone (the contractile state of the rectal tunica muscularis) should mediate accomodation and influence rectal emptying. Such changes in tone however can be only inferred from changes in baseline pressure recorded with conventional manometry. We used an isobaric volumetric device, the rectal electromechanical barostat, to quantify variations in tone of the rectal wall in response to feeding and to perturbations in response to the pharmacological agents neostigmine and glucagon. The barostat quantitates muscular wall tone indirectly by measuring its reciprocal, e.g., the volume of air within a flaccid intraluminal bag that is maintained at a constant and preselected pressure, by an electronic feedback mechanism. The barostat as well as a three-channel perfused manometric catheter were positioned in the rectum of 14 healthy volunteers. Three patterns of changes were observed: 1) respiratory fluctuations, 2) rapid volume waves, and 3) slow volume changes. Rectal tone varied little during fasting; rapid or slow changes in intrabag volume were infrequent. Ingestion of a standard meal was followed by a significant decrease in barostat bag volume (85 ± 6 ml fasting vs. 50 ± 8 ml fed, P < 0.05). Pharmacological agents also induced predictable responses; neostigmine decreased bag volume and induced phasic pressure activity, whereas glucagon abolished phasic pressure activity and increased barostat bag volume. Perfused manometric catheters showed no concomitant changes in baseline pressure. We concluded that a rectal barostat measured variations in human rectal tone, which were not recorded by conventional manometric techniques. These changes in rectal tone might have important functional significance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G17-G25
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number1 23-1
StatePublished - 1991


  • Isobaric
  • Motility
  • Volumetric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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