Objectives: Do gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in apparent remission reflect the coexistence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or subclinical inflammation? The aims of this study were as follows: (i) to prospectively determine the prevalence of IBS symptoms in IBD patients in remission; and (ii) to determine whether IBS symptoms correlate with levels of fecal calprotectin.
Methods: Remission was defined by physician assessment: Crohn's disease (CD) activity index <or=150 and ulcerative colitis disease activity index <or=3, and serum C-reactive protein <10, while off corticosteroids or biologics. Quality of life (QOL) (by inflammatory bowel disease questionnaire), the hospital anxiety and depression scale (HAD), and fecal calprotectin were measured.
Results: Rome II criteria for IBS were fulfilled in 37/62 (59.7%) of CD patients and by 17/44 (38.6%) of those with ulcerative colitis (UC). However, fecal calprotectin was significantly elevated above the upper limit of normal in both IBD patient groups, indicating the presence of occult inflammation. Furthermore, calprotectin levels were significantly higher in CD and UC patients with criteria for IBS than in those without IBS-type symptoms. QOL scores were lower and HAD scores higher among UC patients with IBS symptoms in comparison to those who did not have IBS symptoms.
Conclusions: IBS-like symptoms are common in patients with IBD who are thought to be in clinical remission, but abnormal calprotectin levels suggest that the mechanism in most cases is likely to be occult inflammation rather than coexistent IBS.