Interventions That Affect Gastrointestinal Motility in Hospitalized Adult Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Randomized Trials

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Gastrointestinal (GI) dysmotility is a common complication in acute, critically ill, postoperative, and chronic patients that may lead to impaired nutrient delivery, poor clinical, and patient-reported outcomes. Several pharmacological and nonpharmacological interventions to treat GI dysmotility were investigated in dozens of clinical studies. However, they often yielded conflicting results, at least in part, because various (nonstandardized) definitions of GI dysmotility were used and methodological quality of studies was poor. While a universally accepted definition of GI dysmotility is yet to be developed, a systematic analysis of data derived from double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trials may provide robust data on absolute and relative effectiveness of various interventions as the study outcome (GI motility) was assessed in the least biased manner.

To systematically review data from double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trials to determine and compare the effectiveness of interventions that affect GI motility.

Three electronic databases (MEDLINE, SCOPUS, and EMBASE) were searched. A random effects model was used for meta-analysis. The summary estimates were reported as mean difference (MD) with the corresponding 95% confidence interval (CI).

A total of 38 double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trials involving 2371 patients were eligible for inclusion in the systematic review. These studies investigated a total of 20 different interventions, of which 6 interventions were meta-analyzed. Of them, the use of dopamine receptor antagonists (MD, −8.99; 95% CI, −17.72 to −0.27; P  = 0.04) and macrolides (MD, −26.04; 95% CI, −51.25 to −0.82; P  = 0.04) significantly improved GI motility compared with the placebo group. The use of botulism toxin significantly impaired GI motility compared with the placebo group (MD, 5.31; 95% CI, −0.04 to 10.67; P = 0.05). Other interventions (dietary factors, probiotics, hormones) did not affect GI motility.

Based on the best available data and taking into account the safety profile of each class of intervention, dopamine receptor antagonists and macrolides significantly improve GI motility and are medications of choice in treating GI dysmotility.

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