The natural history of irritable bowel syndrome is unclear.
In this study, doctors from the United States conducted a systematic review of observational longitudinal studies of clinic-based adult patients with irritable bowel syndrome.
The team only included studies published in English and in full manuscript form.
Overall, 14 studies met the team's inclusion criteria.
|30 to 50% of patients had unchanged symptoms.|
|Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics|
The doctors found that in 6 of the studies, between 2 and 5% of irritable bowel syndrome patients were diagnosed with an alternative organic GI disorder 6 months to 6 years later.
They also found that between 2 and 18% of patients developed worse irritable bowel syndrome symptoms during long-term follow-up.
However, 30 to 50% of patients had unchanged symptoms.
The remainder of patients had symptoms which improved or disappeared.
The team found that prior surgery, higher somatic scores, higher baseline anxiety, and depression scores were predictive of worsening of symptoms during long-term follow-up.
Dr El-Serag's team concluded, "Irritable bowel syndrome, a chronic disorder, is a stable diagnosis".
"Once initial investigations are negative, fewer than 5% are diagnosed with an alternative organic GI disorder".
"Repeated diagnostic evaluations of patients with recurrent or persistent symptoms similar to their baseline symptoms are not warranted".