BACKGROUND: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most frequent functional gastrointestinal disorder, both in primary and secondary care.
AIMS: (1) To describe diagnostic tools and treatments suggested to IBS patients by Italian gastroenterologists; (2) To evaluate patients' quality of life and psychological involvement and the relationship of these factors with symptom severity.
METHODS: Twenty-six gastroenterologists recorded the demographic and clinical data of 677 IBS patients. Diagnostic and treatment measures taken in the previous year and those suggested by gastroenterologists were analysed.
RESULTS: IBS with constipation was found in 43.4%, with diarrhoea in 21.6%, mixed-IBS in 35.0%. Routine blood tests, ultrasonography, colonoscopy, barium enema and CT were more frequently requested in the previous year than by the gastroenterologists (p < 0.001). Colonoscopy (11%), and ultrasonography (20.4%) were also suggested by the gastroenterologists in a non-negligible number of patients. Abdominal pain and distension, bowel dissatisfaction, anxiety and depression were more severe in females than in males. Quality of life decreased with increasing IBS-symptom severity.
CONCLUSIONS: IBS diagnosis is still largely based on exclusion criteria even if gastroenterologists try to improve diagnostic appropriateness. However, therapy remains symptom-based also in the gastroenterological setting even if gastroenterologists use a wide variety of approaches, including innovative therapies such as linaclotide and psychotherapy.