Sensory Adaptation Training or Escitalopram for IBS With Constipation and Rectal Hypersensitivity: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Clin Transl Gastroenterol. 2021 Jul 13;12(7):e00381. doi: 10.14309/ctg.0000000000000381.

Satish S C Rao 1 2, Enrique Coss-Adame 1 2, Yun Yan 1, Askin Erdogan 1, Jessica Valestin 2, Deepak Nag Ayyala 3


Author information

  • 1Division of Neurogastroenterology/Motility, Augusta University, Augusta, Georgia, USA.
  • 2Division of Gastroenterology/Hepatology, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa, USA.
  • 3Department of Population Health Sciences, Augusta University, Augusta, Georgia, USA.


Introduction: Rectal hypersensitivity is an important pathophysiological dysfunction in irritable bowel syndrome with predominant constipation (IBS-C), whose treatment remains challenging. In a randomized controlled trial, we compared the efficacy and safety of a novel sensori-behavioral treatment, sensory adaptation training (SAT) with escitalopram.

Methods: Patients with IBS-C (Rome III) with rectal hypersensitivity received 6 biweekly sessions of SAT or escitalopram 10 mg daily for 3 months. SAT was performed by repetitive gradual distension of 10-cm long highly compliant rectal balloon above tolerability thresholds using barostat. Treatment effects on sensory thresholds and symptoms were compared. Coprimary outcome measures were those achieving improvements in rectal hypersensitivity (≥20% increase in ≥2/3 sensory thresholds) and pain (≥30% decrease).

Results: We randomized 49 patients; 26 received SAT and 23 escitalopram. SAT significantly improved desire to defecate (Δ 13.5 ± 2.3 vs 2.2 ± 1.1 mm Hg, P = 0.0006) and maximum tolerability (Δ 14.8 ± 1.9 vs 1.6 ± 0.9 mm Hg, P < 0.0001) thresholds compared with escitalopram. There were significantly greater percentage of hypersensitivity responders with SAT than escitalopram (69% vs 17%, P < 0.001), but not pain responders (58% vs 44%, P = 0.4). Daily pain scores did not differ between groups (P = 0.8) or escitalopram (P = 0.06) but decreased with SAT (P = 0.0046) compared with baseline. SAT significantly increased rectal compliance (P < 0.019) and complete spontaneous bowel movements per week than escitalopram (P = 0.04). Five withdrew from adverse events with escitalopram and none with SAT.

Discussion: SAT was significantly more efficacious in improving hypersensitivity and bowel symptoms in IBS-C than escitalopram. SAT is a promising novel treatment for IBS with rectal hypersensitivity.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00584571.


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