Objectives: Rome criteria were formulated to define functional gastrointestinal disorders (Rome III criteria, 2006) excluding organic diagnoses when alarm symptoms were absent. The aims of the study were to validate the Rome III criteria as to their capacity to differentiate between organic and functional abdominal pain and to assess the role of alarm symptoms in this differentiation.
Methods: During 2 years all of the patients (ages 4–16 years) presenting with recurrent abdominal pain (Apley criteria) and referred to secondary care were included. Clinical diagnoses were based on protocolized evaluation and intervention with 6-month follow-up. Alarm symptoms were registered. Rome III criteria for functional pain syndromes were assigned independently. Descriptive statistical analyses were performed.
Results: In 200 patients (87 boys, mean age 8.8 years), organic (17%), functional (40%), combined organic and functional (9%), spontaneous recovery (27%), and other (8%) clinical diagnoses were established. Alarm symptoms were found in 57.5% (organic causes 56%, functional causes 61%). The evaluation for Rome symptom clusters revealed symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in 27%, functional dyspepsia in 15%, functional abdominal pain in 28%, functional abdominal pain syndrome in 14.5%, and no pain syndrome in 15.5%. Rome diagnoses, based on symptoms and absence of alarm symptoms, predicted functional clinical diagnosis with sensitivity 0.35 (95% confidence interval 0.27–0.43), specificity 0.60 (0.46–0.73), positive predictive value 0.71 (0.61–0.82), and negative predictive value of 0.24 (0.17–0.32).
Conclusions: The Rome III criteria for abdominal pain are not specific enough to rule out organic causes. Alarm symptoms do not differentiate between organic and functional abdominal pain.