Researchers have developed an acoustic belt that offers a new way to diagnose irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by listening to the noises in a patient’s gut, according to research presented at Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) 2018.
The study was conducted to find a way to listen to the rumblings and grumblings of the gut to identify patterns that characterize chronic gut conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome.
IBS is a common and often painful condition that causes bloating, diarrhea and constipation. It is estimated to affect more than 10 percent of the world’s population. However, irritable bowel syndrome can be difficult to diagnose and often requires patients to undergo a colonoscopy. Many patients with IBS go undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated.
“We used acoustic sensing technology that was originally created to track the munching sounds of termites to see if we could detect problems in the human gut.”,said Barry Marshall, the lead author of the study.
The researchers developed a basic prototype belt that uses machine learning techniques to identify complex features and patterns of the sounds collected from within the abdomen. Study participants were recruited with an existing clinical diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome or with healthy digestive systems. Participants wore the belt and their bowel sounds were recorded for two hours post-fasting, and then for 40 minutes after a standardized meal.
The study found that the acoustic index output of the belt predicts IBS with high accuracy, allowing researchers to effectively differentiate between the two groups.
Recordings from the first 31 irritable bowel syndrome and 37 healthy participants were used to build the IBS acoustic index model. A statistical method called “leave one out cross-validation” was used with this data set and yielded 90 percent sensitivity and 92 percent specificity for irritable bowel syndrome diagnosis. Independent testing using the next 15 IBS and 15 healthy subjects revealed 87 percent sensitivity and 87 percent specificity for IBS diagnosis.
The study concluded that the new technology can offer a less- invasive way to diagnose painfully, and sometimes the debilitating condition of IBS and once the belt is further developed and tested on more patients, this tool will be intended for use in primary care settings for the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome.