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Summary

Background  A lack of reliable treatments for abdominal pain-related functional gastrointestinal disorders prompts interest in new therapies.

Aim  To evaluate systematically the effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) for treating abdominal pain-related functional gastrointestinal disorders in children.

Methods  MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, the Cochrane Library, trial registries and proceedings of major meetings were searched for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating LGG supplementation in children with abdominal pain-related functional gastrointestinal disorders based on the Rome II or Rome III criteria. Risk of bias was assessed for generation of the allocation sequence, allocation concealment, blinding and follow-up.

Results  Compared with placebo, LGG supplementation was associated with a significantly higher rate of treatment responders (defined as no pain or a decrease in pain intensity) in the overall population with abdominal pain-related functional gastrointestinal disorders (three RCTs, = 290; risk ratio, RR 1.31, 95% CI 1.08–1.59, number needed to treat, NNT 7, 95% CI 4–22) and in the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) subgroup (three RCTs, = 167; RR 1.70, 95% CI 1.27–2.27, NNT 4, 95% CI 3–8). However, no difference was found in the rate of treatment responders between children with functional abdominal pain or functional dyspepsia who received placebo or LGG. The intensity of pain was significantly reduced in the overall study population and in the IBS subgroup. The frequency of pain was significantly reduced in the IBS subgroup only.

Conclusion  The use of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG moderately increases treatment success in children with abdominal pain-related functional gastrointestinal disorders, particularly among children with IBS.