Background: Erythromycin has been shown to be a powerful prokinetic of the gastrointestinal tract. Little is known about its value to improve motility and transit in gastrectomized patients. Methods: Thirteen disease- free patients subjected to subtotal gastrectomy and 11 subjected to total gastrectomy for gastric cancer entered the study. Gastrointestinal transit of a standard 99mTc-labelled meal and fasting motility were studied before and after oral erythromycin. Results: In patients who had subtotal gastrectomy mean(s.d.) gastric half-emptying time was 42(14) min before and 26(11) min after erythromycin (P = 0.011). Before erythromycin prolonged rhythmical contractions (3 per min) were recorded in eight patients, sporadic non-organized contractions in two and prolonged bursts of waves in one. After erythromycin, clustered waves resembling a migrating motor complex (MMC) appeared in eight patients, while rhythmic motor activity was unchanged in three. In patients who had total gastrectomy jejunal half-emptying time was 39(18) min before and 45(12) min after erythromycin. In eight patients, frequent MMCs were recorded, peristaltic in four, synchronous in one, antiperistaltic in two, with clusters of non-propagated waves in one. After erythromycin, longer peristaltic MMCs were recorded in three, antiperistaltic MMCs persisted in two, synchronous in one and clusters of non-propagated waves in two. Conclusion: Oral erythromycin improves gastrointestinal transit and motility after subtotal gastrectomy. The findings after total gastrectomy are controversial.
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