Clinical trial: predictive factors for response to gut-directed hypnotherapy for refractory irritable bowel syndrome, a post hoc analysis

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2024 Jan;59(2):269-277. doi: 10.1111/apt.17790. Epub 2023 Nov 5.


Background: Gut-directed hypnotherapy is effective for patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Despite its considerable evidence base, gut-directed hypnotherapy is not widely available and remains a limited resource. This emphasises the need to select patients who are most likely to benefit.

Aim: To determine whether baseline patient characteristics were predictive of response to gut-directed hypnotherapy in patients with IBS METHODS: We conducted a secondary analysis of outcomes of 448 patients with refractory Rome III IBS who participated in a randomised study confirming non-inferiority of 6 compared to 12 sessions of gut-directed hypnotherapy. We compared baseline patient characteristics, including age, sex, IBS subtype, quality of life and IBS-Symptom Severity Scale (IBS-SSS), non-colonic symptom score and Hospital Anxiety and Depression (HAD) score between responders and non-responders. We defined response as ≥50-point decrease in IBS-SSS or ≥30% reduction in pain severity scores.

Results: Overall, 76.3% achieved ≥50-point decrease in IBS-SSS. Responders had a higher baseline non-colonic symptom score (p = 0.005). Those who achieved ≥30% improvement in abdominal pain scores (59.8%) had higher baseline IBS-SSS (p = 0.03), and lower baseline HAD-depression score (p = 0.012). Fifty-four patients (12%) dropped out of gut-directed hypnotherapy. Compared to completers, dropouts had higher baseline HAD-anxiety score (p = 0.034).

Conclusions: These data suggest that patients with a higher burden of gastrointestinal and extraintestinal symptoms are most likely to benefit from gut-specific behavioural intervention for refractory IBS. Clinical assessment of gastrointestinal, somatic and psychological symptom profiles may play a role in selecting patients for gut-directed hypnotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Depression
  • Humans
  • Hypnosis*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome* / psychology
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome* / therapy
  • Quality of Life