Neurogastroenterology & Motility Center
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Neurogastroenterology and Motility Center combines clinical expertise in evaluation and management of a variety of functional gastrointestinal disorders with innovative research on mechanisms of visceral pain, psychosocial determinants of GI symptom severity, and the neural basis for cerebral cortical influences on GI tract function. The Center also has developed unique clinical collaborations with UPMC physicians in the Neurology Department to enhance the care of patients with GI symptoms that result from neurodevelopmental, metabolic, neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory conditions.
The Center’s clinical and research activities reflect the evolving concept that functional GI disorders are not due solely to motility disturbances but rather are associated with altered brain-gut interactions, visceral hypersensitivity and, in some cases, disturbances of GI function mediated by mucosal immunological events. The spectrum of functional GI disorders ranges from those associated with characteristic motility patterns, such as achalasia, gastroparesis, and intestinal pseudo-obstruction, to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, functional dyspepsia, and cyclic vomiting syndrome, which are better characterized using a biopsychosocial framework. These latter disorders are treated using an integrative medical paradigm, and the Division’s Visceral Inflammation and Pain (VIP) Center often is involved in patient management.
The GI Motility Laboratory at UPMC provides support for the Center’s clinical activities. Under the direction of Dr. David Levinthal, the Motility Laboratory performs numerous diagnostic studies including esophageal and anorectal manometry, ambulatory esophageal pH studies using tubeless capsule technology, combined esophageal pH-impedance testing, colon transit, and breath H2 studies. The lab also supports wireless whole gut motility capsule testing. These tests are supplemented by clinical evaluations from departments, including gastric and gallbladder emptying (Nuclear Medicine), pelvic floor neurophysiology (Rehabilitation Medicine) and pelvic floor MRI and anal sonography (Radiology at Magee-Womens Hospital).
Center physicians have regional and national expertise in disorders of colonic and anorectal function, stomach function, cyclic vomiting syndrome, and intestinal motility disorders. The Center also serves as a tertiary referral center for patients with refractory irritable bowel syndrome, chronic visceral pain syndromes and chronic intestinal failure.
The Neurogastroenterology & Motility Center’s faculty conducts both translational and basic science research. Primary research themes include:
- Determining the neural basis for cognitive influences on GI tract function by Dr. David J. Levinthal
- Studies of the psychosocial determinants of GI symptom severity in a variety of GI disorders
- Exploration of the intrinsic relationship between target-tissue production of neurotrophic factors and sensory neuron function led by Dr. Kathryn Albers
- Studies on the role of growth factors in the development and adult plasticity of the central and peripheral nervous system led by Dr. Brian Davis
- Studies to explore GI motility disturbances and treatment options in multiple sclerosis patients led by Dr. David Levinthal
Physicians and Physician Extenders
The following Neurogastroenterology & Motility Center physicians work actively to diagnose, treat, and cure functional bowel diseases: