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The slow wave (SW) of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract mainly functions to trigger the onset of spike to elicit smooth muscle contraction, which provides the essential power of motility. Smooth muscle myogenic control activity or SW is believed to originate in the interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC). The electrical coupling promotes interaction between muscle cells, and ICC additionally contribute to SW rhythmicity. Stomach SW originates in the proximal body showing the continuous rhythmic change in the membrane potential and propagates normally to the distal antrum with a regular rhythm of approximately 3 c.p.m. A technique using electrodes positioned on the abdominal skin to pick up stomach rhythmic SW refers to electrogastrography (EGG). The stomach SW amplitude is very weak, while many visceral organs also produce rhythmic electricities, for example heartbeat, respiration, other organs of the GI tract and even body movements. Thus noise other than SW should be filtered out during the recording, while motion artifacts are visually examined and deleted. Finally, the best signal among all recordings is selected to compute EGG parameters based on spectral analysis. The latter is done not only to tranform frequency domain to time domain but also to provide information of time variability in frequency. Obtained EGG parameters include dominant frequency/power, % normal rhythm, % bradygastria, % tachygastria, instability coefficient and power ratio. Clinical experience in EGG has been markedly accumulated since its rapid evolution. In contrast, lack of standardized methodology in terms of electrode positions, recording periods, test meals, analytic software and normal reference values makes the significance of EGG recording controversial. Unlike imaging or manometrical studies, stomach motility disorders are not diagnosed based only on abnormal EGG parameters. Limitations of EGG recording, processing, computation, acceptable normal parameters, technique and reading should be known to conduct subjective assessments when EGG is used to resolve stomach dysfunction. Understanding basic SW physiology, recording methodology and indications may open EGG as a new domain to approach the stomach motor dysfunction.
PMID: 15836697 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]