Irritable bowel syndrome: A test of the colonic hyperalgesia hypothesis

Paul Latimer, Dugal Campbell, Margaret Latimer, Sushil Sarna, Ed Daniel, William Waterfall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


This study tested the hypothesis that, in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), there is a primary hyperalgesia of the colon. Previous work, which examined these patients and normals, has not included subjects who provide a control for relevant psychological characteristics. We compared ratings of pain, following varying degrees of distension of the sigmoid colon, in normals, patients with IBS, and patients who were psychologically disturbed but without bowel symptoms. Psychological characteristics were assessed by a psychiatric interview and psychometric inventories; response to distension was tested by placing a tube in the rectosigmoid colon and successively inflating and deflating a balloon at its tip at 10 cm3 increments up to 50 cm3. Ratings of pain were recorded at each volume. The results indicated that the two patient groups were psychologically similar and both were more disturbed than normals. A linear relation was found between reports of pain and volume of distension in all three groups. There were no significant differences between the proportions of subjects experiencing pain in each group or the average of the ratings. There were no significant associations between the pain ratings and measures of anxiety, depression, neuroticism, and extraversion. The data do not support the hypothesis that colonic hyperalgesia is an important contributory factor in the etiology of the irritable bowel syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-295
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1979
Externally publishedYes


  • colonic hyperalgesia
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • pain
  • psychophysiological disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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