MAUI, HAWAII – 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.
“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.