The Association of Introducing a Faecal Calprotectin Testing Pathway for Suspected Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Primary Care and Time to Diagnosis or Treatment

Inflamm Intest Dis. 2020 Nov;5(4):191-199. doi: 10.1159/000509907. Epub 2020 Sep 9.

Amy Hicks 1, P John Hamlin 1 2, Christian P Selinger 1 2


Author information

  • 1Gastroenterology, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Leeds, United Kingdom.
  • 2Leeds Institute of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom.


Background: Primary care faecal calprotectin (FC) was introduced in Leeds in 2014 to distinguish inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) from irritable bowel syndrome and with the hope that it may reduce time to IBD diagnosis and treatment. This study examines the association of FC with referral routes, time to diagnosis, and time to treatment.

Methods: All patients newly referred to IBD clinics in 2013 and 2016 were studied. Data on referral routes and dates, FC, date of first treatment, and proxy outcomes for disease severity were collected.

Results: In 248 patients, there were no differences between 2013 and 2016 cohorts regarding baseline data and disease severity. The number of direct referrals to gastroenterology rose from 3% (2013) to 17% (2016), whilst 10% were diagnosed during emergency admissions. Referrals via suspected cancer pathways remained high (38% in 2013, 28% in 2016), whilst many had initial investigations at independent centres (16% in 2013, 24% in 2016). Time from referral to diagnosis was similar between 2013 (0.77 month) and 2016 (1.10 months, p = 0.2). A total of 48 (33.3%) patients had FC checked prior to referral, and 37.5% of these were referred directly to gastroenterology. Time from diagnosis to treatment reduced from 1.37 months (2013) to 0.72 month (2016, p = 0.01).

Conclusion: Patients present via a multitude of referral pathways, but FC was associated with increased direct referrals to gastroenterology. We found a variation in time to diagnosis and treatment depending on referral routes. Further work is required to ensure patients with suspected IBD get referred to IBD services in a timely manner.

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