Traditional Chinese Medicine Based Subgrouping of Irritable Bowel Syndrome Patients


Abstract:Partly from lack of effective conventional therapeutics, patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) turn to complementary and alternative approaches, including Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Key to TCM's approach to IBS is individualized therapies targeted at subgroups. Subgroups represent distinct patterns of dysregulation (e.g. "excess" or "deficiency") identified by both intestinal and extra-intestinal symptoms. Our objective was to identify operational criteria supporting the existence of TCM-based subgroups in IBS and to assess reliability and validity of these criteria. Using TCM principles, items were selected on face validity from conventional questionnaires. TCM practitioners evaluated items for content and face validity. Symptom items and a set of patient cases with item responses were validated by examining patient's pattern of response to items and assessing the consistency with which practitioners diagnosed patients on the spectrum of an "excess" or "deficiency" syndrome. Standard correlation analysis revealed 33 intestinal and extra-intestinal symptom items. There was high degree of practitioner agreement in assessing individual items to particular patterns. External validation by practitioners of cases showed high internal consistency among practitioners (Cronbach's alpha coefficients of 0.91 and 0.87 for excess and deficiency, respectively) and high correlation of average practitioner rating to original questionnaire generated scores (Pearson correlation coefficients of 0.94 and 0.92 for excess and deficiency, respectively). This pilot study provides preliminary support for a methodology to identify novel subgroups of IBS patients related to the TCM classification, which may differ in underlying pathophysiology and treatment responses

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