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The association between childhood abdominal pain (CAP) and adult irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is not well understood. Stuart Howell, BA (Hons), MPH, and colleagues investigated this relationship and reported their results in the American Journal of Gastroenterology (September 2005). Data were collected from a 1972 birth cohort in Dunedin, New Zealand, and the participants were evaluated at ages 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 18, 21, and 26. IBS (as defined by the Manning Criteria) was assessed using symptom data collected from each participant at age 26.
A history of CAP, as reported by 18.1% of children, was slightly more common in girls and appeared to peak between the ages of 7 and 9. IBS at age 26 was significantly more common among patients with a history of CAP between ages 7 and 9, compared with participants with no history.
The association between CAP and adult IBS was not altered by adjustment for gender, socioeconomic status, psychiatric disorder at age 26, childhood emotional distress, or mother's score on the Malaise Inventory. These results suggested that childhood CAP can progress to adult IBS in some individuals.