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Open Access Research article

Treatments for irritable bowel syndrome: patients' attitudes and acceptability

Lynsey R Harris1 and Lesley Roberts2*

Author Affiliations

1 School of Medicine, C/O Lesley Roberts, Primary Care Clinical Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK

2 Primary Care Clinical Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2008, 8:65  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-8-65

Published: 19 December 2008

Abstract

Background

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a highly prevalent chronic disorder, places significant burden on the health service and the individual. Symptomatic distress and reduced quality of life are compounded by few efficacious treatments available. As researchers continue to demonstrate the clinical efficacy of alternative therapies, it would be useful to gain a patient-perspective of treatment acceptability and identify patient's attitudes towards those modalities considered not acceptable.

Methods

Six hundred and forty-five participants identified from an earlier IBS-prevalence study received a postal questionnaire to evaluate preferences and acceptability of nine forms of treatment. Proportions accepting each form of treatment were calculated and thematic analysis of qualitative data undertaken.

Results

A total of 256 (39.7%) of 645 potential respondents completed the questionnaire (mean age 55.9 years, 73% female). Tablets were most acceptable (84%), followed by lifestyle changes (diet (82%), yoga (77%)). Acupuncture (59%) and suppositories (57%) were less acceptable.

When explaining lack of acceptability, patient views fell into four broad categories: dislike treatment modality, do not perceive benefit, general barriers and insufficient knowledge. Scepticism, lack of scientific rationale and fear of CAM were mentioned, although others expressed a dislike of conventional medical treatments. Past experiences, age and health concerns, and need for proof of efficacy were reported.

Conclusion

Most patients were willing to accept various forms of treatment. However, the reservations expressed by this patient-population must be recognised with particular focus directed towards allaying fears and misconceptions, seeking further evidence base for certain therapies and incorporating physician support and advice.