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Impact of somatization on health resource usage in patients with irritable bowel syndrome

Patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) use over 50 percent more health resources than people without the disorder. Even though there are definitive guidelines to diagnose IBS through simple blood tests, many IBS patients have additional procedures and surgeries that rarely result in relief or any additional diagnostic findings.

"It is difficult to know why patients with IBS have such a high use of healthcare resources, and whether the high use is driven by the patients themselves or by the physicians taking care of them," said Dr. Brennan M.R. Spiegel, study author and director, UCLA/VA Center for Outcomes Research and Education (CORE).

UCLA researchers tried to tease this out by analyzing the effect of somatization on the amount of health care resources utilized by patients with IBS. Somatization is a condition where emotional stressors trigger physical pain without the presence of disease. The new study is published in the October 2005 issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

According to Spiegel, IBS patients often suffer from somatization. Since patients with somatization are sometimes perceived as "complainers" by their doctors, the researchers hypothesized that physicians might respond to these complaints by ordering excessive tests instead of treating the somatization itself.

Researchers found that patients with high levels of somatization were not more likely to seek gastrointestinal care than those with low levels of the condition. Once evaluated for care by the doctors however, the patients with more severe somatization were significantly more likely to utilize more health care services.

"This finding suggests that the doctors and not the patients may be driving the need for procedures and surgeries that may not be necessary," said Dr. Brennan M.R. Spiegel, assistant professor of medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. "We need to e
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Contact: Rachel Champeau
rchampeau@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-0777
University of California - Los Angeles
27-Sep-2005


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