What patients know about irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and what they would like to know. National Survey on Patient Educational Needs in IBS and development and validation of the Patient Educational Needs Questionnaire (PEQ)

Am J Gastroenterol. 2007 Sep;102(9):1972-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2007.01254.x. Epub 2007 May 3.


Patient education improves clinical outcomes in patients with chronic illness, but little is known about the education needs of patients with IBS.

Objectives: The objective of this study was to identify: (1) patients perceptions about IBS; (2) the content areas where patients feel insufficiently informed, i.e., "knowledge gaps" about diagnosis, treatment options, etiology, triggers, prognosis, and role of stress; and (3) whether there are differences related to items 1 and 2 among clinically significant subgroups.

Methods: The IBS-Patient Education Questionnaire (IBS-PEQ) was developed using patient focus groups and cognitive item reduction of items. The IBS-PEQ was administered to a national sample of IBS patients via mail and online.

Analysis: Frequencies of item endorsements were obtained. Clinically relevant groups, (a) health care seekers or nonhealth care seekers and (b) users or nonusers of the Web, were identified and grouped as MD/Web, MD/non-Web, and non-MD/Web.

Results: 1,242 patients completed the survey (371 via mail and 871 online), mean age was 39.3 +/- 12.5 yr, educational attainment 15 +/- 2.6 yr, 85% female, IBS duration 6.9 +/- 4.2 yr, 79% have seen an MD for IBS in the last 6 months, and 92.6% have used the Web for health information. The most prevalent IBS misconceptions included (% of subjects agreeing with the statement): IBS is caused by lack of digestive enzymes (52%), is a form of colitis (42.8%), will worsen with age (47.9%), and can develop into colitis (43%) or malnutrition (37.7%) or cancer (21.4%). IBS patients were interested in learning about (% of subjects choosing an item): (1) foods to avoid (63.3%), (2) causes of IBS (62%), (3) coping strategies (59.4%), (4) medications (55.2%), (5) will they have to live with IBS for life (51.6%), and (6) research studies (48.6%). Patients using the Web were better informed about IBS.

Conclusion: (1) Many patients hold misconceptions about IBS being caused by dietary habits, developing into cancer, colitis, causing malnutrition, or worsening with age; (2) patients most often seek information about dietary changes; and (3) educational needs may be different for persons using the internet for medical information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Data Collection
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / psychology*
  • Male
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires