Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder characterized by abdominal discomfort and disordered bowel habits.
Despite the high prevalence of IBS, little is known about how physicians perceive this condition.
Dr Brian Lacy and colleagues from the USA measured physicians' understanding of IBS.
The investigative team assessed the attitudes of physicians towards patients with IBS.
The team also determined whether there are differences in the way Internal Medicine, Family Practice, and Gastroenterology physicians treat IBS patients.
A survey was sent to 3000 physicians nationwide, 1000 to each of the 3 main physician groups.
The survey contained 35 questions assessing demographics, the etiology and pathophysiology of IBS.
The team included questions on the use of diagnostic tests, and practice patterns and attitudes.
|More Gastroenterologists stated that prior infection was a causes of IBS|
|Scandanavian Journal of Gastroenterology|
Of the deliverable questionnaires, 501 were returned completed.
However, 472 of the respondents interviewed only adult patients, and this group represented the cohort for the team's analysis.
The investigators reported that the mean age of all respondents was 47, and 80% were men.
The team found that physicians in Internal Medicine and Family Practice made a new diagnosis of IBS about 2 times each week.
In comparison, the team noted that Gastroenterology Physicians made a new diagnosis 5 times each week.
Compared with Family Practice and Internal Medicine physicians, Gastroenterologists felt that IBS patients were less sick than other patients.
This was the opinion although the IBS patients required more time per visit.
More Gastroenterologists stated that prior infection and a history of abuse were the causes of IBS.
The investigators observed that Family Practice physicians were more likely to believe that diet was a cause of IBS.
The team noted that Gastroenterology physicians felt a new diagnosis of IBS could be made without further testing 42% of the time.
Family Practice and Internal Medicine physicians felt that 33% of IBS patients needed referral to a Gastroenterologist.
Dr Lacy's team concludes, “The attitudes and practice patterns of physicians towards patients with IBS differ depending on practice specialty.”
“This may be due to differences in training, the ability to perform specialized tests, and/or differences in referral patterns.”
“Further training may improve the ability of physicians in all specialties confidently to diagnose and treat patients with IBS.”