Autoimmune Gastrointestinal Dysmotility Treated Successfully With Pyridostigmine

Shabana F. Pasha, Tisha N. Lunsford, Vanda A. Lennon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Autoimmune gastrointestinal dysmotility (AGID) is a limited form of autoimmune autonomic neuropathy occurring idiopathically or in a paraneoplastic context. This disorder is considered rare, but is underrecognized as a cause for GI dysmotilities of varying anatomic extent, severity, and duration. We describe the diagnosis and management of an instructive case. Methods: A 60-year-old (nondiabetic) woman presented with a 15-year history of severe isolated gastroparesis. Paraneoplastic autoantibody evaluation aided the diagnosis of AGID. This included indirect immunofluorescence (neuronal nuclear and cytoplasmic antibodies), radioimmunoprecipitation assays (neuronal and muscle plasma membrane cation channel antibodies), and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (muscle striational antibodies). Results: Serologic testing revealed both ganglionic neuronal acetylcholine receptor and N-type voltage-gated calcium channel autoantibodies. This profile was consistent with AGID and, despite the long history, raised the possibility of lung, breast, or ovarian carcinoma or thymoma. An underlying neoplasm was excluded by appropriate investigations. In a 1-month trial of oral pyridostigmine therapy, the patient's GI symptoms improved and her weight stabilized. Pyridostigmine was continued at a low dose, and was supplemented by tegaserod. Conclusions: Autoimmune serology is a valuable adjunct to the diagnosis and guide to management of patients with AGID. The favorable response to acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, despite a 15-year history, suggests an immunopharmacologic rather than an inflammatory cytotoxic pathology. Immunomodulatory therapy may not always be required. Of numerous autoantibodies currently recognized as biomarkers of AGID, the ganglionic acetylcholine receptor autoantibody is the only proven pathophysiologic effector. Certain neuronal nuclear and cytoplasmic autoantibodies are highly predictive of an underlying malignancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1592-1596
Number of pages5
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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