Use of probiotics in the treatment of functional abdominal pain in children-systematic review and meta-analysis

Eur J Pediatr. 2021 Feb;180(2):339-351. doi: 10.1007/s00431-020-03809-y. Epub 2020 Sep 17.


Functional abdominal pain is a very frequent functional gastrointestinal disorder but still without adequate treatment options. Therefore, the main aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to evaluate strain-specific probiotic effects on functional abdominal pain in children. This was a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials published in a period up to 1st of April 2020 that analyzed probiotic interventions for pediatric functional abdominal pain. We included 9 randomized controlled trials (a total of 702 children, 506 with functional abdominal pain; 4 to 18 years); 8 studies were available for meta-analysis (a total of 641 children). Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 were the only two probiotic strains investigated. Significant reduction in pain intensity (6 trials, n = 380, mean difference - 1.24, 95% CI - 2.35 to - 0.13) and increase in number of days without pain (2 trials, n = 101, mean difference 26.42, 95% CI 22.67 to 30.17) were found in children taking L. reuteri DSM 17938. For all other outcomes, there were no significant differences between probiotic and placebo.Conclusion: Based on the available evidence, no firm conclusions can be given; however, L. reuteri was proven to decrease the pain intensity in children with functional abdominal pain. Further trials regarding long-term outcomes, possibly involving longer interventions, are needed. What is Known: • Previously published systematic reviews have suggested that probiotics may have an effect on the pain in children with functional gastrointestinal disorders, but limited data exist on strain-specific effects. What is New: • This systematic review provides evidence on the probiotic use on the strain-specific level. • This systematic review showed that the use of Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 modestly reduces the pain intensity in children with functional abdominal pain.

Keywords: Abdominal pain; Functional gastrointestinal disorder; Lactobacillus; Pediatrics.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / etiology
  • Abdominal Pain / therapy
  • Child
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus*
  • Limosilactobacillus reuteri*
  • Probiotics* / therapeutic use