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

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22 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

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