OBJECTIVE: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is diagnosed by the presence of a constellation of symptoms fulfilling the Manning or Pome Criteria, after exclusion of organic disease. To exclude other diagnoses that might contribute to the abdominal pain or bowel symptoms experienced by subjects with IBS, numerous screening algorithms have been advocated, incorporating lactose hydrogen breath tests, thyroid function tests, fecal ova and parasite determination, and colonic endoscopy/radiography. The utility of these tests in uncovering alternative diagnoses, other than IBS, was examined in 1452 patients.
METHODS: Data were combined from two large multinational studies of IBS patients. All patients exhibited symptoms meeting the Pome criteria for IBS for at least 6 months before study entry. If prior evaluation had been >2 yr previously, patients underwent colonic endoscopy/radiography at study entry. In addition, thyroid function tests, fecal ova and parasite determination, and a lactose hydrogen breath test were performed.
RESULTS: Lactose malabsorption was diagnosed in 23% (256/1122) of patients. Colonic abnormalities were detected in 2% (7/306) of patients; in four patients, colonic inflammation (n = 3) or obstruction (n = 1) may have contributed to symptoms of abdominal pain or altered bowel habits. Abnormal thyroid-stimulating hormone levels were detected in 6% (67/1209) of patients, of whom half were hypothyroid and half were hyperthyroid. Positive fecal ova and parasite tests were noted in 2% (19/1154) of patients.
CONCLUSIONS: Examination of screening tests in 1452 patients with an established history of IBS revealed an incidence of lactose malabsorption comparable to that in the general U.S. population and a low incidence of thyroid dysfunction, ova and parasite infestation, or colonic pathology. The limited detection rates, added costs, and inconvenience of these tests suggest that their routine use in the diagnostic evaluation of established IBS patients should be scrutinized. (C) 1999 by Am. Cell. of Gastroenterology.