Background & aims: Differentiating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) from those of organic intestinal disease is a familiar problem for physicians. The aim of this study was to assess the sensitivity, specificity, and odds ratios (ORs) of fecal calprotectin, small intestinal permeability, Rome I criteria, and laboratory markers of inflammation (erythrocyte sedimentation rate [ESR], C-reactive protein [CRP], blood count) in distinguishing organic from nonorganic intestinal disease.
Methods: A total of 602 new referrals to a gastroenterology clinic who had symptoms suggestive of IBS or organic intestinal disease were studied for these parameters. All patients underwent invasive imaging (barium/endoscopic examination) and other investigations as appropriate, with physicians blinded to the results of fecal calprotectin and intestinal permeability.
Results: A total of 263 patients were diagnosed with organic disease and 339 with IBS. At 10 mg/L, the sensitivity and specificity of calprotectin for organic disease were 89% and 79%, respectively, and that of intestinal permeability for small intestinal disease were 63% and 87%, respectively. Sensitivity of positive Rome criteria for IBS was 85% with a specificity of 71%. An abnormal calprotectin test had an OR for disease of 27.8 (95% confidence interval [CI], 17.6-43.7; P < 0.0001) compared with ORs of 4.2 (95% CI, 2.9-6.1; P < 0.0001) and 3.2 (95% CI, 2.2-4.6; P < 0.0001) for elevated CRP and ESR values. An abnormal permeability test gave an OR of 8.9 (95% CI, 5.8-14.0; P < 0.0001) for small intestinal disease. The OR for IBS with positive Rome criteria was 13.3 (95% CI, 8.9-20.0).
Conclusions: Fecal calprotectin, intestinal permeability, and positive Rome I criteria provide a safe and noninvasive means of helping differentiate between patients with organic and nonorganic intestinal disease.