Aim: To systematically review the literature evaluating hypnotherapy in the management of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Methods: Electronic databases were searched (Cochrane Library, Medline, CINAHL, AMED, Embase, PsycINFO, CISCOM, TRIP and the Social Science Citation index), bibliographic references scanned and main authors contacted. No restrictions were placed on language or publication year. Eligible studies involved adults with IBS using single-component hypnotherapy. All studies, except single case or expert opinion, were sought and all patient-related outcomes eligible.
Results: Out of 299 unique references identified, 20 studies (18 trials of which four were randomized, two controlled and 12 uncontrolled) and two case series were eligible. These tended to demonstrate hypnotherapy as being effective in the management of IBS. Numbers of patients included were small. Only one trial scored more than four out of eight on internal validity.
Conclusion: The published evidence suggests that hypnotherapy is effective in the management of IBS. Over half of the trials (10 of 18) indicated a significant benefit. A randomized placebo-controlled trial of high internal validity is necessary to establish the effectiveness of hypnotherapy in the management of IBS. Until such a trial is undertaken, this form of treatment should be restricted to specialist centres caring for the more severe forms of the disorder.