Medical students' knowledge and perception of irritable bowel syndrome in comparison to inflammatory bowel disease

Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2023 Apr 5;e14576. doi: 10.1111/nmo.14576. Online ahead of print.


Daniel Henick 1Tyler Italiano 2Hannibal Person 3Laurie Keefer 4


Author information

1Department of Medical Education, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.

2Department of Medical Education, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, USA.

3Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA, USA.

4Department of Gastroenterology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, USA.


Background: Gastroenterologists may hold less positive attitudes toward disorders of gut-brain interaction (DGBI) like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) compared with organic GI disorders like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This contributes to worse health outcomes in patients with DGBI and decreased patient satisfaction. Medical student knowledge and perception of these two disorders have not been directly studied.

Methods: A cohort of medical students (n = 106) completed a survey where they read clinical vignettes about patients with IBS and IBD and answered questions regarding their knowledge of and attitudes toward these two diseases.

Key results: IBS was perceived as a less real and a more exaggerated disorder when compared to IBD, and patients with IBS were seen as more difficult to treat. With more clinical exposure across 4 years of training, students were more likely to perceive IBS as a "less real" illness, though they held fewer negative attitudes toward patients with IBS. Greater familiarity with both IBS and IBD was associated with fewer negative attitudes.

Conclusions & inferences: Biases observed in gastroenterologists toward patients with IBS originate as early as the beginning of medical school, including seeing IBS as a "less real" disease and more difficult to treat. Earlier educational interventions may be helpful in identifying and addressing these biases.



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