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Is Somatic Hypersensitivity A Predictor Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

July 22, 2009
World Journal of Gastroenterology
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders, which classically manifests with chronic abdominal pain associated with alternation in bowel movement habits. Even though the pathophysiology is unclear, visceral hypersensitivity is considered as a common clinical marker of IBS. However, the association of somatic hypersensitivity with clinical symptoms in IBS has not been evaluated. The authors focus on investigating thermal pain sensitivity of IBS in their study.

Although visceral hypersensitivity is considered a hallmark feature of IBS, conflicting evidence exists regarding somatic hypersensitivity in this patient population. Several investigators have found no evidence for heightened somatic pain sensitivity in IBS patients. Also, others have reported similar cold presser pain tolerance in IBS patients and controls. These conflicting findings may result from differing somatic pain testing procedures.

Previous studies have explored the correlates of visceral hypersensitivity among patients with IBS. To further evaluate somatic hyperalgesia among patients with IBS, the authors evaluated thermal pain sensitivity among patients with diarrhea-predominant IBS (D-IBS) vs constipation-predominant IBS (C-IBS) compared with healthy subjects.

A research led by G Nicholas Verne from United States addressed this issue. The article is to be published on July 14, 2009 in the World Journal of Gastroenterology. A total of 42 cases with D-IBS and 24 with C-IBS, and 52 control subjects were collected in the study. Their thermal pain hypersensitivity were examined Thermal stimuli were delivered using a Medoc Thermal Sensory Analyzer with a 3 cm × 3 cm surface area. Heat pain threshold (HPTh) and heat pain tolerance (HPTo) were assessed on the left ventral forearm and left calf using an ascending method of limits. The Functional Bowel Disease Severity Index (FBDSI) was also obtained for all subjects.

The research revealed controls were less sensitive than C-IBS and D-IBS with no differences between C-IBS and D-IBS for HPTh and HPTo. Thermal hyperalgesia was present in both groups of IBS patients relative to controls, with IBS patients reporting significantly lower pain threshold and pain tolerance at both test sites.

A unique finding of this study is that the authors detected a strong relationship between heat pain measures and Functional Bowel Disease Severity Index (FBDSI) scores. IBS patients with high FBDSI scores had the highest thermal pain sensitivity compared to those IBS patients with low to moderate FBDSI scores.

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by World Journal of Gastroenterology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Zhou Q, Fillingim RB, Riley JL, Verne GN. Thermal hypersensitivity in a subset of irritable bowel syndrome patients. World J Gastroenterol, 2009; 15(26): 3254-3260 [link]

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World Journal of Gastroenterology. "Is Somatic Hypersensitivity A Predictor Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 July 2009. <>.
World Journal of Gastroenterology. (2009, July 22). Is Somatic Hypersensitivity A Predictor Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2015 from
World Journal of Gastroenterology. "Is Somatic Hypersensitivity A Predictor Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?." ScienceDaily. (accessed November 27, 2015).

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