Thirty jaundiced neonates with diarrhoea who were being treated with phototherapy and 30 matched control infants were studied to try and find out the cause of the diarrhoea. Faecal osmolality and electrolyte concentrations were measured, which gave clear evidence that the diarrhoea arose from intestinal secretion. Rectal water and electrolyte absorption in 10 jaundiced infants receiving phototherapy, in 10 jaundiced infants not receiving phototherapy, and in 10 healthy controls was measured with a rectal dialysis bag. A further group of eight jaundiced infants was also studied both during and after phototherapy to document the reversal of ion transport changes. Absorption of water, sodium chloride, and potassium was significantly impaired in the patients receiving phototherapy compared with each of the control groups. Such impairment was transient, as it was not apparent when the jaundice faded and phototherapy was stopped. These data show that the colon plays a part in the pathogenesis of secretory diarrhoea and that both hyperbilirubinaemia and phototherapy are necessary for such an effect to develop.
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