Evaluation of gastrointestinal symptoms in different patient groups using the visual analogue scale for irritable bowel syndrome (VAS-IBS)

BMC Gastroenterol. 2011 Nov 10;11:122. doi: 10.1186/1471-230X-11-122.


Background: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gastrointestinal (GI) dysmotility disorders have a similar clinical picture, although dysmotility disorders require the attention of a specialist. Patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS) have also been described to suffer from IBS-like symptoms. No objective marker is available to distinguish between the patients. A visual analogue scale has been developed for IBS patients (VAS-IBS) to measure treatment response of GI symptoms and well-being in patients with IBS. The aim of the present study was to examine if VAS-IBS could be used to compare the degree of GI complaints in different patient populations, to get an objective marker to differentiate between the patients.

Methods: The VAS-IBS consists of 7 VAS scales, namely, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation, bloating and flatulence, vomiting and nausea, psychological well-being and the intestinal symptoms' influence on daily life. Consecutive female patients suffering from IBS, dysmotility disorders and pSS were asked to complete the VAS-IBS questionnaire when visiting the out-patient clinics. In addition, a control population consisting of healthy female volunteers was included.

Results: Healthy volunteers had almost no GI symptoms, whereas all 3 patient groups expressed symptoms. There was no statistical significant difference between IBS and dysmotility in any of the scales besides vomiting and nausea (p = 0.044). Except for constipation, patients with pSS had less severe symptoms than the others.

Conclusion: The VAS-IBS questionnaire could be used to assess the level of GI symptoms. However, VAS scores do not help the clinicians to differentiate between IBS and other dysmotility disturbances.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / diagnosis
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Constipation / diagnosis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diarrhea / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Flatulence / diagnosis
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / physiology
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nausea / diagnosis
  • Pain Measurement / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sjogren's Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vomiting / diagnosis