Outcome of hospital outpatient treatment of functional gastrointestinal disorders

Intern Med J. 2019 Feb;49(2):225-231. doi: 10.1111/imj.14067.


Background: Functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGID) are the commonest conditions observed in gastrointestinal (GI) practice, yet the outcomes of their outpatient care are not known.

Aim: To evaluate the outcome for patients with FGID attending a specialist GI clinic.

Methods: Consecutive, newly referred patients with a FGID attending a specialist GI clinic in a tertiary hospital, over a 1-year period were reviewed and then completed a phone survey to assess current symptoms.

Results: Of 102 patients, 57% had irritable bowel syndrome, 28% functional dyspepsia and 15% other functional disorders. At interview, a median of 402 days after the last consultation 38% expressed symptom improvement, but 64% remained concerned about their condition despite 62% having been reassured. After treatment, 50% of employed patients took time off work because of gut symptoms. Functional dyspepsia patients were less likely to be symptomatically improved than other FGID (21% vs 45%, P = 0.02). Patients given a diet low in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols were more likely than others to achieve symptom improvement (53% vs 31%, P = 0.03); PPI-treated patients were less likely to experience improvement (22% vs 44%, P = 0.05); other treatments did not predict outcome. Number of visits, seniority of clinician, duration of care and comorbidities did not predict outcome.

Conclusion: One year after attending a specialist GI clinic a minority of patients with FGID were symptomatically improved. Failure to benefit by many patients may relate to the nature of patients and conditions being treated or the limited nature and range of treatments offered. Different models of care, including more diverse multidisciplinary models, should be explored.

Keywords: functional gastrointestinal disorder; hospital outpatient clinic; irritable bowel syndrome.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Dyspepsia / diagnosis
  • Dyspepsia / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outpatients / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult