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Open Access Research

Maturation of gastric electrical activity, gastric emptying and intestinal permeability in preterm newborns during the first month of life

Giuseppe Riezzo1, Flavia Indrio2*, Francesco Raimondi3, Osvaldo Montagna2, Gennaro Salvia4, Bisceglia Massimo5, Lorenzo Polimeno6, Luciano Cavallo2 and Ruggiero Francavilla2

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory of Experimental Pathophysiology, National Institute for Digestive Diseases IRCCS, Saverio de Bellis, 70013 Castellana Grotte, Bari, Italy

2 Department of Pediatrics, University of Bari Policlinico, Piazza G Cesare, 70124, Bari, Italy

3 Department of Pediatrics, University Federico II Policlinico, Via S Pansini 12, 80100, Naples Italy

4 Department of Pediatrics, Ospedale Fatebenefratelli, 80100, Naples, Italy

5 Department of Pediatrics, Ospedale Sangiovanni di Dio, 21009, Crotone, Italy

6 Department of Organ Transplantation, Division of Gastroenterology, 70124 University of Bari Policlinico, Piazza G. Cesare, Bari, Italy

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Italian Journal of Pediatrics 2009, 35:6  doi:10.1186/1824-7288-35-6

Published: 15 March 2009



Immaturity of motility, intestinal epithelial barrier function and absorptive capacity may play a role in the pathophysiology of intestinal diseases in preterms. We determined the gastric electrical activity and emptying, and intestinal permeability, in preterm newborns to verify if a maturation pattern exists in preterm newborns during the first month of life.

Patients and methods

Eighteen preterm newborns (median 34 wks, range 2 wks) completed the study. They underwent the recording of gastric electrical activity by means of cutaneous electrogastrography, the ultrasound examination of gastric emptying, and the lactulose-to-mannitol ratio from permeability-absorption test on days 3, 7, 15, and 30 after birth.


Gastric electrical activity and emptying showed only slight changes between day 3 and day 7. On the contrary, an evident maturation in permeability, expressed as L/Mratio, was evident over time (Friedman Repeated Measures Analysis, p = 0.004).


In preterm healthy newborns of 34 weeks gestational age, electrical and motor activity are completely developed at birth whilst the intestinal epithelial barrier clearly improves during the first week of life.