Review article: the treatment of functional abdominal bloating and distension


  • M. Schmulson,

    1. Laboratory of Liver, Pancreas and Motility (HIPAM), Department of Experimental Medicine-Faculty of Medicine, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM), Mexico.
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  • L. Chang

    1. Center for Neurobiology of Stress, Division of Digestive Diseases, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
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  • This commissioned review article was subject to full peer-review.

Dr L. Chang, Center for Neurobiology of Stress, 10945 Le Conte Avenue, PVUB 2114, Los Angeles, CA 90095-6949, USA.


Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2011; 33: 1071–1086


Background  Abdominal bloating and distension are common symptoms in patients with functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs), however, relatively little is known about their treatment.

Aim  To review the treatment trials for abdominal bloating and distension.

Methods  A literature review in Medline for English-language publications through February 2010 of randomised, controlled treatment trials in adults. Study quality was assessed according to Jadad’s score.

Results  Of the 89 studies reviewed, 18% evaluated patients with functional dyspepsia, 61% with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), 10% with chronic constipation and 10% with other FGIDs. No studies were conducted in patients diagnosed with functional abdominal bloating. The majority of trials investigated the efficacy of prokinetics or probiotics, although studies are heterogeneous with respect to diagnostic criteria and outcome measures. In general, bloating and/or distension were evaluated as secondary endpoints or as individual symptoms as part of a composite score rather than as primary endpoints. A greater proportion of IBS patients with constipation reported improvement in bloating with tegaserod vs. placebo (51% vs. 40%, < 0.0001) and lubiprostone (< 0.001). A greater proportion of nonconstipating IBS patients reported adequate relief of bloating with rifaximin vs. placebo (40% vs. 30%, < 0.001). Bloating was significantly reduced with the probiotics, Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 (1 × 108 dose vs. placebo: −0.71 vs. −0.44, < 0.05) and B. animalis (live vs. heat-killed: −0.56 ± 1.01 vs. −0.31 ± 0.87, = 0.03).

Conclusions  Prokinetics, lubiprostone, antibiotics and probiotics demonstrate efficacy for the treatment of bloating and/or distension in certain FGIDs, but other agents have either not been studied adequately or have shown conflicting results.