In patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), fear of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms can lead to GI symptom-specific anxiety (GSA). Researchers developed a GSA measuring tool, termed the Visceral Sensitivity Index (VSI). They described their process in their article published in Neurogastroenterology and Motility.

Regarding clinical impact, the authors suggested that “IBD patients have GSA that is associated with decreased [health-related quality of life], which can negatively affect treatment compliance and other long-term disease outcomes.”

Initially, authors noted that the VSI is already validated for IBS, and that this analysis was focused on its utility for IBD. The study recruited 222 patients, of which 74 had IBD (Crohn’s = 23; Ulcerative colitis = 51), 74 had IBS, and 74 were healthy controls (HCs). Investigators compared VSI scores from patients with IBD against those from IBS and HC subjects. They also used validated questionnaires to assess associations between VSI score and anxiety, health-related quality of life (HRQOL), and IBD activity.

According to the report, patients with IBD and IBS demonstrated higher VSI scores compared to HCs (IBD = 26.62 ± 16.64; IBS = 38.83 ± 15.06; HCs = 3.42 ± 5.06; p <.001). Notably, VSI scores were lower in patients with IBD compared with patients with IBS (p <.001). Moreover, the VSI of patients with IBD was “modestly correlated” with anxiety (p =.002) and physical factors of HRQOL (p =.0001), but they were less correlated with the mental component of HRQOL (p =.05).

In closing, the authors supported that VSI may be a useful tool for measuring GSA in patients with IBD. They specified that, “VSI in IBD is related to general anxiety but is measuring a different construct and is not affected by the presence of trait anxiety.” They called for additional research to further validate VSI in patients with IBD.