Management of Chronic Abdominal Distension and Bloating
Abdominal bloating and distension are 2 of the most commonly reported gastrointestinal symptoms. Abdominal bloating is characterized by symptoms of trapped gas, abdominal pressure, and fullness. Abdominal distension is defined as a measurable increase in abdominal girth. These symptoms frequently co-exist, although they can occur separately. Defined by Rome IV criteria, functional abdominal bloating and distension commonly coincide with other functional gastrointestinal disorders, such as functional dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome, and functional constipation. Abdominal bloating and distension can develop for multiple reasons, including food intolerances, a previous infection that perturbed the intestinal microbiota, disordered visceral sensation, delayed intestinal transit, or an abnormal viscero-somatic reflux. Treatment can be challenging to patients and providers—no regimen has been consistently successful. Successful treatment involves identifying the etiology, assessing severity, educating and reassuring patients, and setting expectations. Therapeutic options include dietary changes, probiotics, antibiotics, prokinetic agents, antispasmodics, neuromodulators, and biofeedback. We review the epidemiology and effects of chronic bloating and distension and pathophysiology, discuss appropriate diagnostic strategies, and assess available treatment options.