Goals: The objective of this study was to determine how gastroenterologists perceive and use probiotic-based therapies in practice.
Background: In the United States, there has been a recent increase in research investigating the therapeutic capacities of probiotics in human disease and an accompanying increase in product availability and marketing. How medical care providers have interpreted the available literature and incorporated it into their practice has not been earlier assessed.
Study: A 16-question survey (see Survey, Supplemental Digital Content 1, http://links.lww.com/JCG/A14) was distributed to practicing gastroenterologists and physicians with a specific interest in GI disorders within a large metropolitan area.
Results: All physicians responded that they believed probiotics to be safe for most patients and 98% responded that probiotics have a role in treating gastrointestinal illnesses or symptoms. Currently 93% of physicians have patients taking probiotics most often for irritable bowel syndrome. Commonly used probiotics included yogurt-based products, Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 (Align), and VSL#3. Most surveyed physicians recommended probiotics for irritable bowel syndrome, antibiotic, and Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea because they believed that the literature supports their usage for these conditions. However, physician practice patterns did not consistently correlate with published, expert-panel-generated recommendations for evidence-based probiotic use.
Conclusions: This study suggests most gastrointestinal disease specialists recognize a role for and have used probiotics as part of their therapeutic armamentarium; however, the effective implementation of this practice will benefit from additional supporting studies and the eventual development of clinical practice guidelines supported by the major gastroenterology societies.