Spontaneous contractions, inhibitory responses produced by electrical field stimulation, and some electrophysiologic properties of circular smooth muscle from normal sigmoid colon and from sigmoid colon of ulcerative colitis patients were compared in vitro using simultaneous recordings of mechanical and intracellular electrical activity. In normal colonic circular muscle obtained from 21 patients, the frequency of spontaneous summation contractions ranged from 3 to 7 per 4 min, whereas in circular muscle from 13 patients with ulcerative colitis, the frequency of these contractions ranged from 1 to 9 per 4 min. Nonadrenergic, noncholinergic relaxation produced by electrical field stimulation was recorded in the majority of circular smooth muscle strips from both normal colon and colon from patients with ulcerative colitis. There were no significant differences in mean resting membrane potential, mean slow-wave frequency, mean maximum slow-wave amplitude, or inhibitory-junction potential amplitudes recorded using circular smooth muscle from both normal colon and colon from patients with ulcerative colitis. There appeared to be a weak association in patients with ulcerative colitis between increasing duration of symptoms and decreasing frequency of spontaneous summation contractions, but there were no associations between the frequency of these contractions and the severity of colonic inflammation, patient age, or the frequency of stools. The mechanism accounting for a wider range in the frequency of summation contractions recorded from colonic circular smooth muscle in ulcerative colitis remains to be determined.
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