OBJECTIVES: Symptom-based criteria to diagnose irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) positively perform only modestly. Our aim was to assess whether including other items from the clinical history and limited diagnostic evaluation improves their performance.METHODS: We collected complete symptom, colonoscopy, and histology data from 318 consecutive, unselected adult patients with lower gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms in secondary care. All participants underwent colonoscopy, with relevant organic findings recorded. The reference standard used to define the presence of true IBS was patient-reported lower abdominal pain or discomfort associated with a change in bowel habit, in the absence of organic GI disease. Sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative likelihood ratios (LRs), with 95% confidence intervals, were calculated for Rome III criteria, as well as for modifications, incorporating nocturnal stools, results of simple blood tests (hemoglobin and C-reactive protein (CRP)), measures of somatization, and/or affective disorders (hospital anxiety or depression scale (HADS) score).RESULTS: The sensitivity and specificity of the Rome III criteria for identifying IBS was 69.6%, and 82.0%, respectively, with positive and negative LRs of 3.87 and 0.37, respectively. Clinically useful enhancements in positive LRs were provided by combining Rome III criteria with: (a) high level of somatization (7.27); (b) normal hemoglobin and CRP with HADS score of ≥8 (5.04); (c) normal hemoglobin and CRP with a high level of somatization (7.56); or (d) no nocturnal passage of stool with a high level of somatization (17.3). Specificity was ≥95% with each of these modifications.CONCLUSIONS: Incorporating nocturnal stools, somatization, and affective disorders from the clinical history, and hemoglobin and CRP measurements, enhances the positive LR and specificity of symptom-based Rome III criteria for IBS.
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