Expert Commentary -- Bloating, Distension, and the Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Richard Lea, MD; Peter J. Whorwell, MD

In This Article

Editor's Note

Please note: The following announcement supersedes any information contained in this article. On March 30, 2007, Novartis, in compliance with an FDA request, suspended marketing and sales of its irritable bowel/constipation drug tegaserod maleate (Zelnorm) after an analysis of its clinical database pointed to a higher incidence of myocardial infarction, stroke, and unstable angina among patients taking the drug. For updated information on this issue, see the Medscape Alert Center on tegaserod.

Definition of Bloating and Distension

In the literature, the terms "bloating" and "distension" are largely used synonymously, relying more on patient descriptions rather than on any attempt to record an actual change in girth. However, it has recently been suggested that the term "bloating" should be reserved exclusively for the subjective symptom of abdominal enlargement, with the term "distension" being used only when there is an actual change in girth. The situation is further complicated by the fact that in some languages there is not necessarily an exact equivalent of the word "bloating." For the purposes of this review, when a particular study uses the descriptors of either bloating or distension, they are strictly adhered to because there is usually no way of further refining their precise meaning.


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