Use of carbon monoxide to measure luminal stirring in the rat gut

M. D. Levitt, T. Aufderheide, C. A. Fetzer, J. H. Bond

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27 Scopus citations


We used carbon monoxide (CO) as a probe to quantitatively measure intestinal unstirred water layers in vivo. CO has several features that make it uniquely well suited to measure the unstirred layer in that its tight binding to hemoglobin makes uptake diffusion limited, and its relatively high lipid solubility renders membrane resistance negligible relative to the water barriers of the unstirred layer and epithelial cell. The unique application of CO was the measurement of the absorption rate of CO both from the gas phase as well as a solute dissolved in saline. Several lines of evidence showed that a gut stripped free of saline and then filled with gas contained a negligible unstirred layer. Thus, absorption of CO from the gas phase measured resistance of just the epithelial cell. Subtraction of this value from the resistance to CO absorption from saline provided a direct measure of unstirred layer resistance. Studies in the rat showed for a 3-min absorption period that the conventionally calculated apparent unstirred layer for the jejunum was 411 μm and for the colon was 240 μm. However, this conventionally calculated unstirred layer resistance did not truly depict the situation in the rat gut, since there was a continuing depletion of CO from outer surfaces of luminal contents throughout the experiment period. This produced a continually increasing diffusion barrier with time. Calculation of expected absorption rate from unstirred cylinders with the dimensions of the rat gut indicated that there was virtually no stirring in the small intestine and minimal stirring in the colon. The technique described in this paper appears to be simpler and to require fewer assumptions for validity than other techniques previously used to measure unstirred layers in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2056-2064
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1984


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