Background & aims: Given the limitations of conventional therapies and restrictions imposed on newer pharmacologic agents, there is an urgent need to develop efficacious and efficient treatments that teach patients behavioral self-management skills for relieving irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms and associated problems.
Methods: Seventy-five Rome II diagnosed IBS patients (86% female) without comorbid gastrointestinal disease were recruited from local physicians and the community and randomized to either 2 versions of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) (10-session, therapist-administered CBT vs 4-session, patient-administered CBT) or a wait list control (WLC) that controlled for threats to internal validity. Final assessment occurred 2 weeks after the 10-week treatment phase ended. Outcome measures included adequate relief from pain and bowel symptoms, global improvement of IBS symptoms (CGI-Improvement Scale), IBS symptom severity scale (IBS SSS), quality of life (IBSQOL), psychological distress (Brief Symptom Inventory), and patient satisfaction (Client Satisfaction Scale).
Results: At week 12, both CBT versions were significantly (P < .05) superior to WLC in the percentage of participants reporting adequate relief (eg, minimal contact CBT, 72%; standard CBT, 60.9%; WLC, 7.4%) and improvement of symptoms. CBT-treated patients reported significantly improved quality of life and IBS symptom severity but not psychological distress relative to WLC patients (P < .0001).
Conclusions: Data from this pilot study lend preliminary empirical support to a brief patient-administered CBT regimen capable of providing short-term relief from IBS symptoms largely unresponsive to conventional therapies.