BACKGROUND & AIMS:
Symptoms compatible with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are common in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but it is unclear whether this relates to occult IBD activity. We attempted to resolve this issue in a secondary care population by using a cross-sectional study design.
We analyzed Rome III IBS symptoms, disease activity indices, and psychological, somatization, and quality of life data from 378 consecutive, unselected adult patients with IBD seen in clinics at St James's University Hospital in Leeds, United Kingdom from November 2012 through June 2015. Participants provided a stool sample for fecal calprotectin (FC) analysis; levels ≥250 μg/g were used to define mucosal inflammation. By using symptom data and FC levels we identified 4 distinct groups of patients: those with true IBS-type symptoms (IBS-type symptoms with FC levels <250 μg/g, regardless of disease activity indices), quiescent IBD (no IBS-type symptoms with FC levels <250 μg/g, regardless of disease activity indices), occult inflammation (normal disease activity indices and FC levels ≥250 μg/g, regardless of IBS symptom status), or active IBD (abnormal disease activity indices with FC levels ≥250 μg/g, regardless of IBS symptom status). We compared characteristics between these groups.
Fifty-seven of 206 patients with Crohn's disease (27.7%) and 34 of 172 patients with ulcerative colitis (19.8%) had true IBS-type symptoms. Levels of psychological comorbidity and somatization were significantly higher among patients with true IBS-type symptoms than patients with quiescent IBD or occult inflammation. Quality of life levels were also significantly reduced compared with patients with quiescent disease or occult inflammation and were similar to those of patients with active IBD. By using FC levels ≥100 μg/g to define mucosal inflammation, we found a similar effect of IBS-type symptoms on psychological health and quality of life.
In a cross-sectional study, we identified a distinct group of patients with IBD and genuine IBS-type symptoms in the absence of mucosal inflammation. These symptoms had negative effects on psychological well-being and quality of life to the same degree as active IBD. New management strategies are required for this patient group.