The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has recommended a simple stool tests as an option to distinguish between potentially serious inflammatory bowel disease and less serious irritable bowel syndrome.
NICE said faecal calprotectin tests should be used in patients with recent lower gastrointestinal symptoms that could be due to either type of disorder.
The recommended tests measure the levels of the protein calprotectin which is found in inflammatory cells. The protein is traceable in stool samples for several days.
Professor Carole Longson, director of the NICE Health Technology Evaluation Centre, said: “Faecal calprotectin testing helps distinguish between non-inflammatory disorders like irritable bowel syndrome where sufferers will not come to serious harm and inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease – which need to be quickly referred to specialists.
“Currently a number of tests are carried out in both hospitals and GPs’ surgeries to rule out conditions rather than to diagnose,” she said. “Looking at the available evidence, we found that faecal calprotectin testing is a good way to distinguish between inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.”
She added: “The test is also likely to reduce the demands on colonoscopy departments, which will be able to focus on people being investigated for more serious conditions such as bowel cancer.”
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