Background: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common chronic disorder of the gastrointestinal tract. Several treatments have been developed, including rifaximin for the treatment of IBS without constipation (non-IBS-C), but no studies have evaluated the effect of these therapies on patient referral rates to tertiary care gastroenterology clinics.
Aim: To assess referral patterns for IBS patients at a tertiary motility clinic over a 10-year period.
Methods: Data from consecutive patients referred to the clinic during 2006-2016 were analyzed. Trends in the proportion of referrals and prior rifaximin use in IBS-C versus non-IBS-C groups were compared.
Results: A total of 814 adult patients were referred to a single physician panel for IBS-related symptoms. Of these, 776 were included in the study [528 females (68%), average age 45.7 ± 15.9 years), comprising 431 IBS-C (55.5%) and 345 non-IBS-C (44.5%) patients. The proportion of non-IBS-C referrals declined significantly from 53.0% in 2006 to 27.3% in 2016 (Chi-square, p < 0.0001, Cochran-Armitage trend test p = 0.0001), and the proportion of IBS-C referrals increased significantly from 46.9% in 2006 to 72.7% in 2016 (Chi-square, p < 0.0001, Cochran-Armitage trend test p = 0.0004). Non-IBS-C referrals with prior rifaximin use significantly increased from 22.7% in 2006 to 66.7% in 2016 (Cochran-Armitage trend test, p = 0.008).
Conclusions: The results indicate a significantly declining tertiary care referral rate for non-IBS-C over the past decade. While not directly linked, there has been an increase in rifaximin use in the same population during the same time interval.
Keywords: Constipation; Diarrhea; Irritable bowel syndrome; Referral rates; Rifaximin.