1. The aims of this study were to investigate if compartmental analysis can be used to analyse colonic transit measurements and to search for a relationship between transit time and the parameters deduced from this analysis. In addition, an attempt was made to determine if such analysis could reveal a functional abnormality in patients who complain of constipation but have normal colonic transit.

2. The subjects included 11 healthy controls, 10 patients with chronic diarrhoea and 55 constipated patients. Segmental and total colonic transit time were measured using a previously described method. Compartmental analysis was based on a three-compartment system, with k1, k2 and k3 being the coefficients of diffusion out of the right colon, the left colon and the rectosigmoid area respectively.

3. Patients complaining of constipation who had delayed transit time were the only subjects to have lower values of coefficient k1 than controls. k2 was lower than normal in all patients complaining of constipation, but this decrease was more marked in subjects with delayed colonic transit time than in subjects with normal colonic transit time. All patients complaining of constipation had lower values of k3 than control subjects.

4. This study shows that analysis of colonic transit time is feasible using a simple diffusion law, and that the results are correlated to clinical data. Moreover, this analysis permits detection of abnormalities in two groups of subjects: those who complain of constipation but are labelled as having normal colonic transit time and those who have chronic diarrhoea.

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