Recurrent abdominal pain: a potential precursor of irritable bowel syndrome in adolescents and young adults

J Pediatr. 1998 Jun;132(6):1010-5. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(98)70400-7.


Objectives: To assess symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in patients with recurrent abdominal pain (RAP) 5 years after their initial evaluation, to identify the relation of IBS symptoms to functional disability and health service use, and to determine the extent to which IBS symptoms are associated with life stress and poor psychosocial adjustment.

Methods: Patients with RAP (n = 76) and control subjects (n = 49) completed a telephone interview; measures included the Bowel Disease Questionnaire, the Functional Disability Inventory, the Life Events Questionnaire, the Family Inventory of Life Events, the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, the Self-Perception Profile for Adolescents, and the Health Resources Inventory.

Results: Five years after the initial evaluation, patients with RAP reported significantly more episodes of abdominal pain than did control subjects, as well as significantly higher levels of functional disability, school absence, and clinic visits for abdominal distress. Female patients with RAP were more likely than female control subjects to meet the Manning criteria for IBS. Among patients with RAP, higher levels of IBS symptoms were associated with significantly greater functional disability, more clinic visits, more life stress, higher levels of depression, and lower academic and social competence.

Conclusion: Female patients with a history of RAP may be at increased risk of IBS during adolescence and young adulthood. Among adolescents and young adults with a history of RAP, IBS symptoms are likely to be associated with high levels of disability and health service use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / epidemiology*
  • Abdominal Pain / psychology
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / epidemiology*
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / psychology
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Time Factors