Presentation and Characteristics of Abdominal Pain Vary by Irritable Bowel SyndromeSubtype: Results of a Nationwide Population-Based Study

Shah ED1, Almario CV2, Spiegel BM2, Chey WD3. Am J Gastroenterol. 2020 Jan 6. doi: 10.14309/ajg.0000000000000502. [Epub ahead of print]


Author information

Section of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire.

Division of Digestive and Liver Diseases, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California.

Division of Gastroenterology, Michigan Medicine, Ann Arbor, Michigan.


INTRODUCTION: Abdominal pain is a cardinal feature of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); however, differences in abdominal pain among IBS subtypes remain unknown. We aimed to characterize abdominal pain symptoms among established IBS subtypes using data from the National Gastrointestinal (GI) Survey.

METHODS: Individuals participating in the National GI Survey completed National Institutes of Health GI Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (GI-PROMIS) questionnaires. Adults meeting modified Rome III IBS criteria and reporting abdominal pain in the previous 7 days were eligible. Outcomes included abdominal pain severity, bothersomeness, interference with daily activities, frequency, and location. Results were stratified by subtype (diarrhea [IBS-D], constipation [IBS-C], and mixed [IBS-M]). Regression models adjusted for demographics and comorbidities.

RESULTS: One thousand one hundred fifty-eight individuals (245 IBS-D, 232 IBS-C, and 681 IBS-M) with active IBS symptoms (defined as abdominal pain in the past 7 days) were included. Demographics were similar among the subtypes except for age, race/ethnicity, education, and marital status. The GI-PROMIS score was lower for IBS-D (percentile score of 68.6, SD = 25.1; P = 0.001) and IBS-M (69.1, SD = 25.1; P < 0.001) compared with IBS-C (75.5, SD = 20.7). Abdominal pain was more bothersome (P = 0.001), caused more interference with daily activities (P = 0.03), and was more frequent (P = 0.047) for individuals with IBS-C compared with individuals with IBS-D. No differences in these domains were seen between individuals with IBS-D and IBS-M. Individuals with IBS-C and IBS-M had more widespread pain compared with those with IBS-D.

DISCUSSION: In this population-based study, we found that abdominal pain characteristics differ between the IBS subtypes. Namely, individuals with IBS-C experience more bothersome, frequent, and diffuse abdominal pain compared with those with IBS-D.

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