“How to Approach a Patient with Difficult-to-Treat IBS”

L Chang. Gastroenterol 2021; 163: 1092-1098. How to Approach a Patient with Difficult-to-Treat IBS

For a short article, this review provides a lot of practical advice. Challenges with IBS include the lack of objective biomarkers and “patients are often dissatisfied with a positive diagnostic approach or even after multiple negative tests.” The author recommends the following:

  • Confidently communicate the diagnosis of IBS
  • Explain visceral hypersensitivity and its associated with pain, and bloating and why central neuromodulators and behavioral therapy are often used. Explain that IBS can be associated with high-amplitude propagating contractures which can cause pain/diarrhea
  • Treatment focused on ‘RESET’ =Relationship with patient-provider, Education/reassurance, Symptom assessment, Exacerbating/alleviating factors, and Targeting treatment (see Table 1)

Treatment may need to target gut, brain and/or both

  • Dietary treatments considered 1st line approach
  • Treatment pharmacology options for IBS-D include antidiarrheals, antispasmotics, rifaximin, eluxadoline, alosetron (rarely, can cause ischemic colitis), bile acid sequestrants
  • Treatment pharmacology options for IBS-C include polyethylene glycol, lubiprostone, linaclotide, plecanatide, and tegaserod (restricted to women <65 yrs w/o cardiovascular dz)
  • Treatment pharmacology options for all IBS include TCAs (start with low dose and can titrate upwards; amitriptyline for IBS-C, nortriptyline or desipramine for IBS-M or IBS-C), SNRI (eg. duloxetine (may be better than TCAs in patients with IBS-C and comorbidities like fibromyalgia and depression), mirtazapine (small studies demonstrated benefit for IBS-D and functional dyspepsia), SSRIs (“consider…in patients with predominant anxiety and/or depression…advise against its use as primary treatment for IBS w/o comorbid psychological disorder”), delta ligand agent (eg. pregabalin) (consider if refractory to other treatments), and brain-gut therapies (eg. CBT, GDH)

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