Pharmacological interventions have not been successful in the treatment of childhood functional abdominal pain (FAP) hitherto. Buspirone is suggested to be efficacious in some of the abdominal pain–related functional gastrointestinal disorders based on evidences from the studies on adults. We aim to investigate the efficacy of buspirone on childhood FAP.
This randomized clinical trial was conducted on 117 patients with childhood FAP aged 6–18 years. We randomly assigned patients to receive buspirone or placebo for 4 weeks, with the adjusted dosage for age. Participants completed the questionnaires assessing pain, depression, anxiety, somatization, and sleep disturbances at baseline, at the end of the 4-week therapy (first follow-up), and at 8 weeks after medication discontinuation (second follow-up). The primary outcome was treatment response rate, defined as reduced pain score of ≥2 or reporting no pain at the follow-up assessments.
Ninety-five patients completed the 4-week therapy (48 and 47 in buspirone and placebo groups, respectively). Both buspirone and placebo reduced pain after 4 weeks of treatment, and these effects were persistent 8 weeks after medication discontinuation (P < 0.001 for both groups at weeks 4 and 12). Treatment response rates for buspirone and placebo were 58.3% and 59.6% at week 4 (P = 0.902) and 68.1% and 71.1% at week 12 (P = 0.753), respectively.
Buspirone effectively improves pain and associated psychological symptoms including depressive symptoms, anxiety, somatization, and sleep disturbances in childhood FAP but has no superiority over placebo. Further studies, with the higher doses of buspirone and longer follow-ups are recommended.