IBS -- Review and What's New

Amy Foxx-Orenstein, DO, FACG, FACP

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.

Abstract and Introduction


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a highly prevalent gastrointestinal motility disorder broadly characterized by abdominal pain/discomfort associated with altered bowel habits. The chronic and bothersome nature of IBS symptoms often negatively affects patient quality of life and activity level and places a substantial economic burden on patients and the healthcare system. Advances in research have led to a greater understanding of the underlying pathophysiology of IBS, particularly regarding the role serotonin plays in the gastrointestinal tract; the development of stepwise, symptom-based diagnostic strategies that allow for a diagnosis of IBS to be made without the need for extensive laboratory testing; and the development of treatment options targeting underlying pathophysiologic mechanisms that provide relief of the multiple symptoms associated with IBS. This review highlights recent advances in research and discusses how these findings can be applied to daily clinical practice.

IBS -- a complex, multifaceted condition broadly characterized by abdominal pain/discomfort associated with altered bowel habits -- is among the most prevalent gastrointestinal (GI) motility disorders. Prevalence estimates for IBS range from 3% to 20%, with most estimates in North America ranging from 10% to 15%.[1,2,3] Women are affected by IBS more often than men (2:1 in the community setting and 3:1 to 4:1 in the tertiary care setting).[2] IBS-related symptoms are often chronic and bothersome, negatively affecting patient activities of daily living (eg, sleep, leisure time), social relationships, and productivity at work or school.[4,5,6] Patients with IBS typically score lower than population norms or those with other chronic GI and non-GI disorders on measures of quality of life.[7,8,9,10] IBS also puts a heavy economic burden on patients, employers, and the healthcare system, resulting in more than $10 billion in direct costs (eg, from office visits, medications) and $20 billion in indirect costs (eg, through work absenteeism and reduced productivity) each year.[11,12,13,14]

Advances in research during the past several decades have provided insight into the underlying pathophysiology of IBS, particularly the role of serotonin in the GI tract; the development of stepwise, symptom-based diagnostic strategies; and the development of targeted treatment options. This review discusses recent advances in research and explores how these findings can be applied in the clinical practice setting.

Readers are encouraged to respond to George Lundberg, MD, Editor of MedGenMed, for the editor's eye only or for possible publication via email: glundberg@medscape.net


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