Physicians' attitudes and practices in the evaluation and treatment of irritable bowel syndrome

Brian Lacy, Justin Rosemore, Douglas Robertson, David Corbin, Maria Grau, Michael Crowell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Objective. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder characterized by abdominal discomfort and disordered bowel habits. Despite the high prevalence of IBS, little is known about how physicians perceive this condition. The aims of our study were to measure physicians' understanding of IBS, to assess their attitudes towards patients with IBS, and to determine whether there are differences in the way Internal Medicine physicians (IM), Family Practice physicians (FP), and Gastroenterology physicians (GI) evaluate and treat IBS patients. Material and methods. A survey was sent to 3000 physicians nationwide, 1000 each to IM, FP, and GI. The survey contained 35 questions assessing demographics, the etiology and pathophysiology of IBS, the use of diagnostic tests, and practice patterns and attitudes. Results. Of the deliverable questionnaires, 501 were returned completed; 472 of the respondents interviewed only adult patients, representing the cohort for this analysis. The mean age of all respondents was 47; most were men (80%). IM and FP made a new diagnosis of IBS 1.3-1.6 times each week, while GI made a new diagnosis 5.4 times each week (p < 0.0001). Compared with the perceptions of FP and IM, GI felt that IBS patients were less sick than other patients (p <0.001), although they required more time per visit. More GI compared with FP and IM stated that prior infection and a history of abuse were the causes of IBS (p <0.01), while FP were more likely to believe that diet was a cause of IBS (p <0.01). GI felt a new diagnosis of IBS could be made without further testing 42% of the time. FP and IM felt that one-third of IBS patients needed referral to a GI. Conclusions. The attitudes and practice patterns of physicians towards patients with IBS differ depending on practice specialty. This may be due to differences in training, the ability to perform specialized tests, and/or differences in referral patterns. Further training may improve the ability of physicians in all specialties confidently to diagnose and treat patients with IBS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)892-902
Number of pages11
JournalScandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2006


  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Functional gastrointestinal disorders
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Physicians attitudes
  • Practice patterns

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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