First, to what extent do general paediatric outpatients with functional abdominal pain experience other somatic and mental health symptoms compared with children in a population-based sample? Second, to what extent are such symptoms in both patients and their mothers associated with persistent child abdominal pain and functional disability?
Ninety-four referred patients [mean age (SD) 11.1 (1.9) years, 62% girls] were assessed by questionnaires and a paediatric consultation at baseline and at follow-up after 6-9 months (94% follow-up participation). At baseline, somatic and mental health symptoms in the patients were compared with a population-based sample of 14,000 school children. Outcome at follow-up was patient self-reported abdominal pain and disability. Prognostic factors explored included patient and maternal somatic and mental health symptoms.
The patients experienced significantly more somatic [e.g. headache (OR: 9.2; 95% CI: 5.9-14.6)] and emotional symptoms than the school children. Patient's older age and peer problems at baseline were significantly associated with more abdominal pain at follow-up, whereas patient's older age, emotional symptoms, prosocial behaviour and maternal somatic symptoms were associated with disability.
Our results highlight the importance of focusing wider than just the patient's symptoms of abdominal pain in clinical practice and research.