Peristalsis

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Definition

Peristalsis is a series of muscle contractions. These contractions occur in your digestive tract. Peristalsis is also seen in the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder.

Peristalsis is an automatic and important process. It moves:

  • Food through the digestive system
  • Urine from the kidneys into the bladder
  • Bile from the gallbladder into the duodenum

Peristalsis is a normal function of the body. It can sometimes be felt in your belly (abdomen) as gas moves along.

Alternative Names

Intestinal motility

Images

Digestive system
Ileus - X-ray of distended bowel and stomach
Ileus - X-ray of bowel distension
Peristalsis

References

Hall JE, Hall ME. General principles of gastrointestinal function - motility, nervous control, and blood circulation. In: Hall JE, Hall ME, eds. Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 63.

Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary. Peristalsis. www.merriam-webster.com/medical. Accessed October 22, 2020.

Review Date: 
8/13/2020
Reviewed By: 
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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