Subgroups of IBS patients are characterized by specific, reproducible profiles of GI and non-GI symptoms and report differences in healthcare utilization: A population-based study

Polster AV1, Palsson OS2, Törnblom H1, Öhman L1,3, Sperber AD4, Whitehead WE2, Simrén M1,2. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2018 Nov 4:e13483. doi: 10.1111/nmo.13483. [Epub ahead of print]

Author information

1 Department of Internal Medicine and Clinical Nutrition, Institute of Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.

2 Center for Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

3 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Institute of Biomedicine, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.

4 Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel.


BACKGROUND: In a previous clinical sample of IBS patients, subgroups characterized by profiles of GI and non-GI symptoms were identified. We aimed to replicate these subgroups and symptom associations in participants fulfilling IBS diagnostic criteria from a population-based study and relate them to healthcare utilization.

METHODS: An Internet-based health survey was completed by general population adults from United States, Canada, and UK. Respondents fulfilling IBS diagnosis (Rome III and IV) were analyzed for latent subgroups using Gaussian mixture model analysis. Symptom measures were derived from validated questionnaires: IBS-related GI symptoms (Rome IV), extraintestinal somatic symptoms (PHQ-12), and psychological symptoms (SF-8).

KEY RESULTS: A total of 637 respondents fulfilled Rome III criteria (average age 46 years, range 18-87, 66% females) and 341 Rome IV criteria (average age 44, range 18-77, 64% female) for IBS. Seven subgroups were identified in the Rome III cohort, characterized by profiles of GI symptoms (constipation-related, diarrhea-related, and mixed, respectively), and further distinguished by the presence or absence of non-GI comorbidities. The Rome IV cohort showed five similar but less distinct subgroups with a preponderance of mixed symptom profiles. Higher severity of non-GI comorbidities was associated with more frequent healthcare visits and medication usage.

CONCLUSIONS AND INFERENCES: In line with previous findings in a clinical IBS cohort, we were able to identify population-based subgroups characterized by a combination of GI symptoms with the additional distinction made by varying severity of non-GI symptoms and with differences in healthcare utilization.

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