The Sphincter of O’Beirne – Part 1: Study of 18 Normal Subjects
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BACKGROUND: Gastroenterologists have ignored or emphasized the importance of the rectosigmoid junction in continence or constipation on and off for 200 years. Here, we revisit its significance using high-resolution colonic manometry. METHODS: Manometry, using an 84-channel water-perfused catheter, was performed in 18 healthy volunteers. RESULTS: The rectosigmoid junction registers as an intermittent pressure band of 26.2 ± 7.2 mmHg, or intermittent phasic transient pressure increases at a dominant frequency of 3 cpm and an amplitude of 28.6 ± 8.6 mmHg; or a combination of tone and transient pressures, at a single sensor, 10-17 cm above the anal verge. Features are its relaxation or contraction in concert with relaxation or contraction of the anal sphincters when a motor pattern such as a high-amplitude propagating pressure wave or a simultaneous pressure wave comes down, indicating that such pressure increases or decreases at the rectosigmoid junction are part of neurally driven programs. We show that the junction is a site where motor patterns end, or where they start; e.g. retrogradely propagating cyclic motor patterns emerge from the junction. CONCLUSIONS: The rectosigmoid junction is a functional sphincter that should be referred to as the sphincter of O'Beirne; it is part of the "braking mechanism," contributing to continence by keeping content away from the rectum. In an accompanying case report, we show that its excessive presence in a patient with severe constipation can be a primary pathophysiology.
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