Screen readers: Two navigational links to follow.Skip to site navigation.Skip to page content.
The University of Iowa News Services
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release


July 23, 2007

Team Led By Rao Receives NIH Grant To Study Constipation Therapies

University of Iowa researchers have received a five-year, $1.5 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to study and compare treatments for constipation.

The award is currently the only federally supported grant on constipation, said the study's lead investigator Satish Rao, M.D., Ph.D., professor of internal medicine in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and director of neurogastroenterology and gastrointestinal motility at UI Hospitals and Clinics.

The award will allow Rao and co-researchers to study new, innovative and alternative methods of treatment for constipation, a condition that currently affects up to 15 percent of the population, mainly women and the elderly.

The study will involve comparing home biofeedback treatment, which uses monitoring devices to allow subjects to be aware of and control voluntary bodily functions such as defecation, with clinic office-based biofeedback treatment. Rao's previous studies have shown that clinical office-based biofeedback treatments are much more effective than constipation treatments involving laxatives and breathing and relaxation techniques.

The continued research will help determine how biofeedback therapy works and why these treatments are so effective. Particularly, the team will study how the brain and rectum communicate with each other, using a novel technique pioneered at the UI, and if miscommunication between the two is the cause of constipation.

Rao said the research is particularly important because the underlying problem of dyssynergia (the inability to control one's own voluntary muscle movements to evacuate stool) can only be treated by biofeedback therapy. He expects the research to enable researchers to better understand the problem and find solutions for long-term improvement in bowel function.

"This study can have tremendous benefits for many patients who cannot travel to specialized centers for this treatment," Rao said. "There are only 10 or 12 centers in the United States that offer biofeedback therapy for dyssynergia, and there are several million patients with this disorder. A home treatment program, if found to be successful, will extend the benefits of this treatment to many more patients in the community, reduce health care cost and provide more lasting improvement."

Because UI Hospitals and Clinics is one of the major centers that has pioneered biofeedback technology, Rao said the study also has the potential to increase UI visibility as an international research institution, attract investigators and garner more referrals for these kinds of problems.

Co-investigators on the study include Konrad Schulze M.D., UI professor of internal medicine; Catherine Bradley M.D., UI assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology; Thoru Yamada, M.D., UI professor of neurology; Shaheen Hamdy, M.D., lecturer in the School of Medicine at the University of Manchester in England; Jessica Paulson and Kara Seaton, UI research assistants in the UI Division of Gastroenterology/Hepatology; Carl Kice Brown, research assistant in occupational and environmental health in the UI College of Public Health; John Schneider, M.D., internal medicine specialist; Bridget Zimmerman, Ph.D., clinical associate professor of biostatistics in the UI College of Public Health; and Phyllis Stumbo, Ph.D., nutrition manager at the UI Clinical Research Center.

STORY SOURCE: Health Science Relations, University of Iowa, 5137 Westlawn Lawn, Iowa City, IA 52242

MEDIA CONTACT: Becky Soglin, 319-335-6660, Writer: Brandy Huseman