Adequate relief in a treatment trial with IBS patients: a prospective assessment

Am J Gastroenterol. 2009 Apr;104(4):912-9. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2009.13. Epub 2009 Mar 17.


Objectives: Adequate relief (AR) of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms (IBS-AR) has been used as a primary end point in many randomized controlled trials of IBS and is considered by the Rome III committee to be an acceptable primary end point. However, controversy exists on whether baseline severity confounds the effect of the treatment outcome. The aim (1) is to compare a subjective report of IBS-AR with global assessment of improvement (IBS-GAI), change in IBS symptom severity scale (IBS-SSS), and IBS quality of life (IBS-QOL); (2) to explore whether initial IBS symptom severity influences the ability of these outcome measures to detect differences post treatment; and (3) to determine whether psychological symptoms influence the sensitivity of these measures, in a randomized controlled treatment trial.

Methods: A total of 289 adult IBS patients were recruited to a treatment trial. Baseline IBS-SSS scores were used to classify IBS severity as mild (<175), moderate (175-300), or severe (>300). Questionnaires were completed at baseline and after 3 weeks of treatment with sham acupuncture or wait-list control.

Results: IBS baseline severity (IBS-SSS) significantly affected the proportion of patients who reported IBS-AR at 3 weeks (mild, 70%; moderate, 49.7%; severe, 38.8%) (P<0.05). However, once the patients who reported IBS-AR at baseline (28.0%) were excluded from the analysis, baseline severity no longer affected the proportion of patients reporting IBS-AR. Baseline severity did not have a significant effect on patients reporting moderate or significant improvement on the IBS-GAI (mild, 30%; moderate, 25.3%; severe, 18.8%) (P=NS). Psychological symptoms had no significant correlations with responders after adjusting for baseline severity.

Conclusions: These data suggest that IBS-AR as an end point is inversely related to baseline symptom severity. However, if patients who report AR at screening were excluded from study participation, baseline symptom severity was no longer confounded with a report of AR at the study end point.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy / methods*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult