Background & aims: Functional abdominal pain (FAP) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are highly prevalent in childhood. A substantial proportion of patients continues to experience long-lasting symptoms. Gut-directed hypnotherapy (HT) has been shown to be highly effective in the treatment of adult IBS patients. We undertook a randomized controlled trial and compared clinical effectiveness of HT with standard medical therapy (SMT) in children with FAP or IBS.
Methods: Fifty-three pediatric patients, age 8-18 years, with FAP (n = 31) or IBS (n = 22), were randomized to either HT or SMT. Hypnotherapy consisted of 6 sessions over a 3-month period. Patients in the SMT group received standard medical care and 6 sessions of supportive therapy. Pain intensity, pain frequency, and associated symptoms were scored in weekly standardized abdominal pain diaries at baseline, during therapy, and 6 and 12 months after therapy.
Results: Pain scores decreased significantly in both groups: from baseline to 1 year follow-up, pain intensity scores decreased in the HT group from 13.5 to 1.3 and in the SMT group from 14.1 to 8.0. Pain frequency scores decreased from 13.5 to 1.1 in the HT group and from 14.4 to 9.3 in the SMT group. Hypnotherapy was highly superior, with a significantly greater reduction in pain scores compared with SMT (P < .001). At 1 year follow-up, successful treatment was accomplished in 85% of the HT group and 25% of the SMT group (P < .001).
Conclusions: Gut-directed HT is highly effective in the treatment of children with longstanding FAP or IBS.