Evidence for autonomic dysregulation in the irritable bowel syndrome

Dig Dis Sci. 2002 Aug;47(8):1716-22. doi: 10.1023/a:1016424007454.


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder characterized by chronic abdominal pain and visceral hypersensitivity. In this study, resting blood pressure and heart rate were recorded in 20 IBS patients and 23 controls. We assessed pain intensity and unpleasantness to visceral and cutaneous stimuli using rectal distension and immersion of the foot in hot water. Mean resting heart rate was higher in IBS patients compared to controls. IBS patients rated pain intensity and unpleasantness to visceral and cutaneous stimuli significantly higher than controls. In IBS patients, blood pressure was significantly inversely associated with visceral pain and only weakly and positively associated with cutaneous pain; there were no relationships in controls. Sex and anxiety did not explain these relationships. In conclusion, we found evidence suggestive of central autonomic dysregulation in IBS patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Skin / innervation
  • Viscera / innervation