Background & Aims: We performed a systematic review and meta-analyses to estimate treatment efficacy and constipation rate of 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin) (5-HT3) antagonists in patients with nonconstipated (NC) or diarrhea-predominant (D)-irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Methods: Two reviewers independently searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Web of Science (January 1, 1966 to December 15, 2006) for randomized controlled trials of 5-HT3 antagonists in IBS reporting clinical end points of the IBS symptom complex and safety parameters. Study characteristics, markers of methodologic quality, and outcomes for the intention-to-treat population for each randomized controlled trial were extracted independently. Results: We found 14 eligible randomized controlled trials of alosetron (n = 3024) or cilansetron (n = 1116) versus placebo (n = 3043) or mebeverine (n = 304). Random-effects meta-analyses found 5-HT3 antagonists more effective than the comparators in achieving global improvement in IBS symptoms (pooled relative risk, 1.60; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.49-1.72; I2 = 0%) and relief of abdominal pain and discomfort (pooled relative risk, 1.30; 95% CI, 1.22-1.39; I2 = 22%). Benefit was apparent for both agents, in patients of either sex. These agents were more likely to cause constipation (pooled relative risk, 4.28; 95% CI, 3.28-5.60, I2 = 65%); there was less constipation with 5-HT3 antagonists in D-IBS patients than in mixed populations (NC-IBS and D-IBS; relative risk ratio, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.41-0.99). Nine patients (0.2%) using 5-HT3 antagonists had possible ischemic colitis versus none in control groups. Conclusions: 5-HT3 antagonists significantly improve symptoms of NC-IBS or D-IBS in men and women. There is an increased risk of constipation with 5-HT3 antagonists, although the risk is lower in those with D-IBS.
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