Noninvasive Diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome via Bowel Sound Features: Proof of Concept

Du X1, Allwood G1, Webberley KM1, Inderjeeth AJ2, Osseiran A3, Marshall BJ1,2. Clin Transl Gastroenterol. 2019 Mar;10(3):e00017. doi: 10.14309/ctg.0000000000000017.


Author information

Marshall Centre, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia.

North Metropolitan Health Service, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Nedlands, Western Australia, Australia.

School of Engineering, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia, Australia.


INTRODUCTION: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common and debilitating disorder estimated to affect approximately 11% of the world's population. Typically, IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion after patients undergo a costly and invasive colonoscopy to exclude organic disease. Clinician's and researchers have identified a need for a new cost-effective, accurate, and noninvasive diagnostic test for IBS.

METHODS: Using a diagnostic case-control study, we explored the use of bowel sounds to characterize IBS with a view to diagnostic use. We recruited participants with an existing clinical diagnosis of IBS or healthy (asymptomatic) digestive systems. We recorded bowel sounds for 2 hours after fasting and then for 40 minutes after a standard meal.

RESULTS: We here report our results including our accuracy in characterizing IBS-related bowel sounds and differentiation between participants with IBS and healthy participants. Leave-one-out cross-validation of our model developed using the first 31 IBS and 37 healthy participants gave 90% sensitivity and 92% specificity for IBS diagnosis. Independent testing using the next 15 IBS and 15 healthy participants demonstrated 87% sensitivity and 87% specificity for IBS diagnosis.

CONCLUSIONS: These preliminary results provide proof of concept for the use of bowel sound analysis to identify IBS. A prospective study is needed to confirm these findings.

TRANSLATIONAL IMPACT: Our belt and model offer hope of a new approach for IBS diagnosis in primary practice. Combined with screening tests for organic disease, it would offer greater confidence to patients and could reduce the burden of unnecessary colonoscopies for health care systems and patients.

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