Efficacy and Safety of Antidepressants for the Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Meta-Analysis

PLoS One. 2015 Aug 7;10(8):e0127815. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0127815. eCollection 2015.


Aim: The aim of this meta-analysis was to analyze the efficacy and safety of antidepressants for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.

Methods: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, Scopus and The Cochrane Library for randomized controlled trials investigating the efficacy and safety of antidepressants in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Article quality was evaluated by Jadad score. RevMan 5.0 and Stata 12.0 were used for the meta-analysis.

Results: Twelve randomized controlled trials were included in this study and most of these trials were of high quality (Jadad score ≥4). Five articles focused on tricyclic antidepressants, six articles involved selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and one article investigated both types of treatment. The pooled risk ratio showed antidepressant treatment can improve global symptoms (RR = 1.38, 95% CI 1.08, 1.77). In the subgroup analysis, treatment with tricyclic antidepressants showed an improvement in global symptoms (RR = 1.36, 95% CI 1.07, 1.71), while treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors showed no statistically significant difference in global symptoms compared with the control groups (RR = 1.38, 95% CI 0.83, 2.28). The pooled risk ratio of dropout due to side effects following antidepressant treatment was 1.71 with 95% CI (0.98, 2.99). The subgroup analysis showed the pooled risk ratio of dropout in the tricyclic antidepressants group was 1.92 with 95% CI (0.89, 4.17). In the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors group, the pooled risk ratio of dropout was 1.5 with 95% CI (0.67, 3.37). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors showed no benefit in alleviating abdominal pain and improving quality of life. There was no difference in the incidence of common adverse events between treatment and control groups.

Conclusions: TCAs can improve global symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, while there was no strong evidence to confirm the effectiveness of SSRIs for the treatment of IBS.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / drug therapy
  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Patient Dropouts
  • Publication Bias
  • Quality of Life
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors

Grants and funding

The authors have no support or funding to report.