Patients with IBS Do Not Need More Colonoscopies than Healthy Individuals

Unless patients with IBS exhibit "alarming" symptoms, extra colonoscopies are not needed, as they are not at an increased risk for polyps, inflammatory bowel diseases, and/or cancer.

Patients with the typical symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are at no greater risk for polyps, inflammatory bowel diseases, or colon cancer, and additional colonoscopies are not needed for IBS patients unless they exhibit other “alarming” symptoms.

University of Michigan (UM) researchers, led by William D. Chey, MD, professor of internal medicine at UM medical school, evaluated the results of colonoscopies done on patients with IBS. The research was done to determine if people with IBS need to undergo more colonoscopies than healthy individuals. According to the UM researchers, patients with IBS do not need to receive any more colonoscopies than healthy patients, because they are not at an increased risk for colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, or celiac disease. Additional colonoscopies should only be ordered for these patients if there is a family history of any of these diseases or if the patient is exhibiting more obvious symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss, anemia, and/or bleeding from the GI tract.

“This study should reassure doctors and patients that typical IBS symptoms are not indicators of a more serious disease,” said Chey, lead author of the study.

In an additional finding, the research also showed that a very small group of patients (2.5%) with IBS who are over the age of 35 are actually suffering from microscopic colitis, which can be misdiagnosed as IBS because the symptoms are similar. According to Chey, it is important to correctly diagnose this other condition, “because it is treated differently than IBS.”