Conference Coverage

Bloating. Flatulence. Think SIBO



– Recognition and effective treatment of small intestinal bowel overgrowth – aka, SIBO – is a highly practical skillset for nongastroenterologists to possess, Uma Mahadevan, MD, said at the 2018 Rheumatology Winter Clinical Symposium.

SIBO is a common accompaniment to a range of chronic diseases, especially as patients age. And it’s not a condition that warrants referral to a gastroenterologist, according to Dr. Mahadevan, professor of medicine and medical director of the Center for Colitis and Crohn’s Disease at the University of California, San Francisco.

Bruce Jancin/Frontline Medical News

Dr. Uma Mahadevan

“To diagnose SIBO properly you need to do a carbohydrate breath test. Those tests are notoriously inaccurate, and it’s not worth it. We just treat. If we think you have SIBO, you do a course of rifaximin. And you can do the same,” she told her audience of rheumatologists.

There is an alternative diagnostic test. It involves obtaining a jejunal aspirate culture that demonstrates a bacterial concentration of more than 1,000 colony-forming units/mL. That’s an invasive and expensive test. Given how common SIBO symptoms are in patients with various underlying chronic diseases and the highly favorable risk/benefit ratio of a course of rifaximin, it’s entirely reasonable to skip formal diagnostic testing and treat empirically when the clinical picture is consistent with SIBO, according to the gastroenterologist.


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