Irritable bowel syndrome physical examination

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Irritable bowel syndrome Microchapters


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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Sudarshana Datta, MD [2]


Patients with irritable bowel syndrome usually appear normal on physical exam. Physical examination of patients with IBS may elicit abdominal tenderness in some patients. A digital rectal examination must be performed in all patients to rule out rectal growths, blood in stool and evaluate for dyssynergic defecation (where paradoxical contraction of the rectal sphincter occurs on straining, leading to constipation). Physical findings such as fever, abdominal mass, hepatosplenomegaly, lymph node enlargement, weight loss, peritoneal signs and ascites are absent in IBS and help rule out organic causes.   

Physical Examination

Appearance of the patient

Vital signs




  • S1 /S2 normal
  • No additional sounds


Findings on abdominal examination are as follows:[7][8][9]

Rectal exam


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  6. 6.0 6.1 McGee S, Abernethy WB, Simel DL (1999). "The rational clinical examination. Is this patient hypovolemic?". JAMA. 281 (11): 1022–9. PMID 10086438.
  7. Brandt LJ, Chey WD, Foxx-Orenstein AE, Schiller LR, Schoenfeld PS, Spiegel BM, Talley NJ, Quigley EM (2009). "An evidence-based position statement on the management of irritable bowel syndrome". Am. J. Gastroenterol. 104 Suppl 1: S1–35. doi:10.1038/ajg.2008.122. PMID 19521341.
  8. Schmulson MW, Chang L (1999). "Diagnostic approach to the patient with irritable bowel syndrome". Am. J. Med. 107 (5A): 20S–26S. PMID 10588169.
  9. Svendsen JH, Munck LK, Andersen JR (1985). "Irritable bowel syndrome--prognosis and diagnostic safety. A 5-year follow-up study". Scand. J. Gastroenterol. 20 (4): 415–8. PMID 4023607.
  10. Whitehead WE, Palsson OS, Feld AD, Levy RL, VON Korff M, Turner MJ, Drossman DA (2006). "Utility of red flag symptom exclusions in the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome". Aliment. Pharmacol. Ther. 24 (1): 137–46. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2036.2006.02956.x. PMID 16803612.
  11. Kruis W, Thieme C, Weinzierl M, Schüssler P, Holl J, Paulus W (1984). "A diagnostic score for the irritable bowel syndrome. Its value in the exclusion of organic disease". Gastroenterology. 87 (1): 1–7. PMID 6724251.
  12. Talley NJ (2008). "How to do and interpret a rectal examination in gastroenterology". Am. J. Gastroenterol. 103 (4): 820–2. doi:10.1111/j.1572-0241.2008.01832.x. PMID 18397419.
  13. Tantiphlachiva K, Rao P, Attaluri A, Rao SS (2010). "Digital rectal examination is a useful tool for identifying patients with dyssynergia". Clin. Gastroenterol. Hepatol. 8 (11): 955–60. doi:10.1016/j.cgh.2010.06.031. PMID 20656061.
  14. Soh JS, Lee HJ, Jung KW, Yoon IJ, Koo HS, Seo SY, Lee S, Bae JH, Lee HS, Park SH, Yang DH, Kim KJ, Ye BD, Byeon JS, Yang SK, Kim JH, Myung SJ (2015). "The diagnostic value of a digital rectal examination compared with high-resolution anorectal manometry in patients with chronic constipation and fecal incontinence". Am. J. Gastroenterol. 110 (8): 1197–204. doi:10.1038/ajg.2015.153. PMID 26032152.

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