Functional abdominal symptoms are very common and account for nearly 2 million primary care consultations in Britain every year.
The symptoms produce significant morbidity.
Dr Robinson and colleagues from England evaluated the impact of 2 self-help interventions in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The researchers assessed the impact on consultation rates, and symptom severity.
The team included a total of 420 patients from 54 primary care centres.
The patients were randomized either to receive self-help information in the form of a guidebook, a guidebook plus a "self-help" group meeting or to be in a control group.
The control group received neither intervention.
Data were collected using questionnaires and primary care records.
The researchers found that at 1 year, patients in the guidebook group had a 60% reduction in primary care consultations vs controls.
|Patients in the guidebook group had a 60% reduction in primary care consultations|
The patients in the self-help group also had a reduction in perceived symptom severity compared with controls.
Allocation to the self-help group conferred no additional benefit.
The research team observed that actual symptom scores did not change significantly in any group.
The team noted that costs per patient were reduced by £73 or 40% per year.
Dr Robinson's team concluded, “Introduction of a self-help guidebook results in a reduction in primary care consultations, a perceived reduction in symptoms, and significant health service savings.”
“This suggests that patients attending their primary care physician with functional abdominal symptoms should be offered self-help information as part of their management.”