Farrell D, Savage E. International Journal of Nursing Practice 2010; 16: 437–442
Symptom burden in inflammatory bowel disease: Rethinking conceptual and theoretical underpinnings
Symptom control is fundamental to the nursing management of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). However, symptom control can be problematic for individuals with IBD, which could result in symptom burden. Symptom burden is an evolving concept in the discipline of nursing and to date little is known about how the defining characteristics of this concept have been applied to symptom research in IBD. In this discussion paper, the concept of symptom burden and the theory of unpleasant symptoms are explored as a basis for understanding symptom research in IBD. This is followed by a critical examination of previous symptom research in IBD. Our conclusion is that there is a need to rethink conceptual and theoretical underpinnings of symptom burden when researching IBD to take account of its defining characteristics, namely symptom severity, frequency and duration, quality and distress. Research knowledge on these defining characteristics will be important to inform nursing assessment of symptom burden in clinical practice.