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Distention and Bloating Differ in Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Etiology for each may be different and reflect bowel habit

FRIDAY, Oct. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Abdominal distention and bloating in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be pathophysiologically different and related to bowel habit subtype, with distention more commonly seen in patients who report constipation, according to a report in the October issue of Gastroenterology.

Lesley A. Houghton, Ph.D., of Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester, U.K., and colleagues compared diurnal variation in the girth of 20 female IBS-constipation patients, 20 female IBS-diarrhea patients and 10 female IBS-alternating patients with 20 healthy controls using abdominal inductance plethysmography. The researchers related girth changes to subjects' reported symptoms of bloating, pain and bowel habit.

All irritable bowel syndrome patients reported significantly more bloating than did healthy subjects, and 48 percent also had distention higher than the 90 percent control range. This was most evident in patients with IBS-constipation. Bloating and distention were unrelated to body mass index, age, parity or psychologic status.

"Abdominal distention is a clearly definable phenomenon in irritable bowel syndrome that can reach 12 cm. However, it only occurs in half of patients reporting bloating, and the two only correlate in IBS-constipation. Bloating and distention may differ pathophysiologically and this appears to be reflected in the bowel habit subtype," the authors conclude.

This study provides information that "may help to finally understand bloating, a frequent and elusive clinical problem, and may provide a basis to develop effective management strategies," writes Fernando Azpiroz, M.D., of the Hospital General Vall d'Hebron in Barcelona, Spain, in an accompanying editorial.

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