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Easy Test to Combat Misdiagnosis of Bowel Conditions

Author: Neil Fearn  Bullet  Dated: 14/06/2013

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have advised doctors to use a simple stool sample test to reduce misdiagnosis of more serious inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Testing for bowel conditions

The ‘faecal calprotectin test’ helps to distinguish between fairly common bowel conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and more serious conditions. The test also indicates whether a referral to a specialist is needed for further investigation. The test can also pick up on other bowel conditions such as irritable bowel disorder (IBD) which can potentially lead to significant complications, such as surgery and reduced life expectancy.

The Facts on Bowel Conditions

It is estimated that around 1 in 5 people in the UK are thought to have IBS but exact numbers are not known, as often sufferers do not pursue treatment.

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis affect around 1 in 250 people in the UK. Ulcerative colitis is an inflammation or ulcer on the inside lining of colon which causes pain, urgent and bloody diarrhoea and continual tiredness. Although most cases can be treated with drugs, others need surgery to remove the affected part of the colon. Around half of people with Crohn’s disease will need surgery within 10 years of diagnosis.

Benefits of the new test

Doctors have welcomed the faecal calprotectin test, praising it for tackling the problem of misdiagnosis. The test is also a money saver compared to the traditional ways in which bowel conditions are investigated. The new stool sample test is estimated to cost around £22.79 per patient. While the more invasive colonoscopy used to diagnose IBD is estimated to cost around £741.68 per patient.

The introduction of the new test should also see a reduction in GPs and hospitals arranging and carrying out many uncomfortable and overly long tests which result in a more specific diagnosis. Some patients wait up to 10 years for a confirmed IBD diagnosis.

Colonoscopy departments will be able to spend more time focussing on the people thought to have more serious bowel conditions as the test reduces demand on their services. This ultimately leads to patients with bowel cancer receiving a better service.

The ultimate aim of the new test is for patients to be monitored and managed better whilst streamlining the service and reducing costs.

The effects of diagnosis delays

Any delay in diagnosing an inflammatory disease can have grave consequences, as blockages of the bowel and perforations can lead to food or stools leaking into the rest of the abdomen. This would lead to severe inflammation called peritonitis.

The causes of a punctured bowel include Crohn’s disease, which is associated with inflammation in all parts of the intestines resulting in an intestinal blockage. An undiagnosed intestinal blockage could be the result of a misdiagnosis on the part of your doctor to examine you properly, correctly interpret a CT scan or recognise the damage already caused.

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