Last week, news reached the gastrointestinal disorders community that scientists at UCLA, a major research center for IBS and related chronic pain conditions, have described a new subset of irritable bowel syndrome that they have named post-diverticulitis IBS or IBS-PDV. Diverticulosis is a common medical condition in which pouches form in the lining of colon. If those pouches become infected at any time, the disorder is known as diverticulitis. Historically, medical professionals have regarded diverticulitis as an acute illness that resolves quickly if properly treated.
However, according to the September 2, 2013 press release from UCLA, a research team including senior author Brennan Spiegel, MD, MSHS, FACG, spent two years studying the records of over 1000 patients at the West Los Angeles Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center, both those who had experienced diverticulitis and others, matched for age, sex and similar coexisting medical issues, if any. The researchers were then able to identify that the group who had had diverticulitis developed new IBS symptoms at a statistically higher rate than the control group. In addition, the rates of developing new anxiety or depression also increased. Dr. Spiegel is quoted in the above press release as stating that these findings are also suggestive of disruptions in the brain-gut axis as is known to occur in irritable bowel syndrome. This scientific evidence would appear to be enough to establish diverticulitis as one of many possible risk factors for later IBS. The full article,was published in the September 5, 2013 edition of the peer-reviewed journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology and is linked here.
Functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders researchers have long understood that gastrointestinal illnesses are a risk factor for the onset of post-infectious IBS (IBS-PI), including the aftermath of food poisoning or water contamination (See the August 5, 2011 post or “Yes You Can Get IBS or Functional Dyspepsia From Bad Drinking Water”, a May 2013 post by Olafur Palsson, PsyD, full professor and researcher at the University of North Carolina Center for Functional GI and Motility Disorders, on his own blog FGID Update.) It appears promising that the UCLA team has been able to refine that knowledge and confirm what some people with IBS have anecdotally reported regarding their personal experiences with first onset of IBS shortly after diverticulitis. It is hoped that in time, this insight will improve diagnosis and lead to better treatment options for this subset of people with IBS.