Antidepressant found to alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in adolescents

May 01, 2008

Researchers at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA have found that low-dose antidepressant therapy can significantly improve the overall quality of life for adolescents suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.

The syndrome affects 6 percent of middle school students and 14 percent of high school kids in the United States.

The study, published in the May issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Pediatrics, is the first of its kind to look at the effects of amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant, in the pediatric IBS population, researchers said.

The research was conducted between 2002 and 2005 and involved 33 newly diagnosed IBS patients, including 24 girls, between the ages of 12 and 18.

Irritable bowel syndrome causes discomfort in the abdomen, along with diarrhea, constipation or both. Currently, there is no cure, and treatments only lessen the symptoms.

"While research has shown that amitriptyline is effective for adults with IBS, only peppermint oil has been studied in children with this disorder in a double-blind, placebo-controlled fashion," said Dr. Ron J. Bahar, assistant clinical professor of pediatric gastroenterology at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA and lead author of the study. "Our results show that amitriptyline significantly improves overall quality-of-life measurements in adolescents and should be a therapeutic option for these patients. We were actually surprised to reach our conclusion with a relatively small number of subjects."

The 13-week study consisted of three phases: two weeks of enrollment and symptom scoring, eight weeks of therapy with amitriptyline or a placebo, and three weeks of post-medication "washout" and symptom scoring.

Patients were randomized in a double-blinded fashion to receive the antidepressant or a placebo and were surveyed at two, six, 10 and 13 weeks using a symptom checklist, a pain-rating scale, a pain intensity and frequency scale, and an IBS quality-of-life questionnaire.

The results showed that patients receiving amitriptyline were more likely to experience:
-- An improvement in overall quality of life at six, 10 and 13 weeks.
-- A reduction in IBS-associated diarrhea at six and 10 weeks.
-- A reduction in pain near the belly button at 10 weeks.
-- A reduction in pain in the right lower quadrant of the abdomen at six, 10 and 13 weeks.

Bahar said that more than half of eligible patients, or their parents or guardians, refused to enroll in the study because they were uncomfortable with using an antidepressant medication of any kind, citing negative reports in the media about their side effects and the Food and Drug Administration's formal 2004 "black box" warnings regarding the increased potential for suicide in children using antidepressants.

"However, the dose of AMI (amitriptyline) used in this study, as well as IBS treatment for adults, is far less than the dose to treat depression," Bahar said. "At these low levels, it could be considered a remedy to treat neuropathic pain associated with chronic pain symptoms, rather than an antidepressant or psychotropic medication."

The next stage of research will look at the long-term follow-up of these patients to determine who will continue to stay well on the medication, whose symptoms resolve spontaneously and what other medications can be used as an alternative to amitriptyline for adolescents with IBS.

Source: University of California - Los Angeles

Explore further: Xtoro approved for swimmer's ear

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Microbial 'signature' for sexual crimes

1 hour ago

Bacterial communities living on an individual's pubic hairs could be used as a microbial 'signature' to trace their involvement in sexual assault cases, according to a study published in the open access journal Investigative Ge ...

Brazil: Google fined in Petrobras probe

2 hours ago

A Brazilian court says it has fined Google around $200,000 for refusing to intercept emails needed in a corruption investigation at state-run oil company Petrobras.

Atari's 'E.T.' game joins Smithsonian collection

3 hours ago

One of the "E.T." Atari game cartridges unearthed this year from a heap of garbage buried deep in the New Mexico desert has been added to the video game history collection at the Smithsonian.

Sony threatens to sue for publishing stolen emails

3 hours ago

A lawyer representing Sony Pictures Entertainment is warning news organizations not to publish details of company files leaked by hackers in one of the largest digital breaches ever against an American company.

Microsoft builds support over Ireland email case

3 hours ago

Microsoft said Monday it had secured broad support from a coalition of influential technology and media firms as it seeks to challenge a US ruling ordering it to hand over emails stored on a server in Ireland.

Recommended for you

Xtoro approved for swimmer's ear

14 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Xtoro (finafloxacin otic suspension) eardrops have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat swimmer's ear, clinically known as acute otitis externa.

Drug interaction identified for ondansetron, tramadol

15 hours ago

(HealthDay)—In the early postoperative period, ondansetron is associated with increased requirements for tramadol consumption, according to a review and meta-analysis published online Dec. 10 in Anaesthesia.

New system targets germs in donated blood plasma

Dec 17, 2014

(HealthDay)—A new system designed to eliminate germs in donated blood plasma and reduce the risk of transmitting a plasma-borne infection has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Judge halts Alzheimer's drug swap until July

Dec 16, 2014

A federal judge has ordered an Irish drug manufacturer to halt its plans to discontinue its widely used Alzheimer's medication, allegedly in an effort to drive patients to a newer patented drug.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.