Aging and intestinal motility: A review of factors that affect intestinal motility in the aged
Normal aging is associated with significant changes in the function of most organs and tissues. In this regard, the gastrointestinal tract is no exception. The purpose of this review is to detail the important age-related changes in motor function of the various parts of the gastrointestinal tract and to highlight some of the important motility changes that may occur, either in relation to common age-related disorders, or as a result of certain drugs commonly prescribed in the aged. A major confounding factor in the interpretation of motor phenomena throughout the gastrointestinal tract in this age group is the frequent coexistence of neurological, endocrinological and other disease states, which may be independently associated with dysmotility. Overall, current data are insufficient to implicate normal aging as a cause of dysmotility in the elderly. Normal aging is associated with various changes in gastrointestinal motility, but the clinical significance of such changes remains unclear. More important is the impact of various age-related diseases on gastrointestinal motility in the elderly: for example, long-standing diabetes mellitus may reduce gastric emptying in up to 50% of patients; depression significantly prolongs whole-gut transit time; hypothyroidism may prolong oro-caecal transit time; and chronic renal failure is associated with impaired gastric emptying. In addition, various, frequently used drugs in the elderly cause disordered gastrointestinal motility. These drugs include anticholinergics, especially antidepressants with an anticholinergic effect, opioid analgesics and calcium antagonists.