Objectives: We previously showed that gut-directed hypnotherapy (HT) is highly effective in the treatment of children with functional abdominal pain (FAP) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Aim of this follow-up study was to investigate the long-term effects of HT vs. standard medical treatment plus supportive therapy (SMT).
Methods: All 52 participants of our previous randomized controlled trial (RCT) were invited to complete a standardized abdominal pain diary, on which pain frequency and pain intensity were scored. Furthermore, the Children's Somatization Inventory (CSI) and a general quality of life (QOL) questionnaire were filled out. Clinical remission was defined as > 80% improvement in pain scores compared with baseline.
Results: All 27 HT patients and 22 out of 25 SMT patients participated in this study. Two patients of the SMT group were lost to follow-up and one refused to participate. After a mean duration of 4.8 years follow-up (3.4-6.7), HT was still highly superior to conventional therapy with 68 vs. 20% of the patients in remission after treatment (P = 0.005). Pain intensity and pain frequency scores at follow-up were 2.8 and 2.3, respectively, in the HT group compared with 7.3 and 7.1 in the SMT group (P < 0.01). Also, somatization scores were lower in the HT group (15.2 vs. 22.8; P = 0.04). No differences were found in QOL, doctors' visits, and missed days of school or work between the two groups.
Conclusions: The beneficial effects of gut-directed HT are long lasting in children with FAP or IBS with two thirds still in remission almost 5 years after treatment, making it a highly valuable therapeutic option.