The Visceral Sensitivity Index: development and validation of a gastrointestinal symptom-specific anxiety scale

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Abstract

Background

Anxiety related to gastrointestinal sensations, symptoms or the contexts in which these may occur is thought to play a significant role in the pathophysiology as well as in the health outcomes of patients with irritable bowel syndrome.

Aim

To develop a valid and reliable psychometric instrument that measures gastrointestinal symptom-specific anxiety.

Methods

External and internal expert panels as well as a patient focus group evaluated a large pool of potential item stems gathered from the psychological and gastrointestinal literature. Potential scale items were then administered to 96 patients diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome along with a set of validating questionnaires. Final item selection was based upon rigorous empirical criteria and the psychometric properties of the final scale were examined.

Results

A final unidimensional 15-item scale, the Visceral Sensitivity Index, demonstrated excellent reliability as well as good content, convergent, divergent and predictive validity.

Conclusions

The findings suggest that the Visceral Sensitivity Index is a reliable, valid measure of gastrointestinal symptom-specific anxiety that may be useful for clinical assessment, treatment outcome studies, and mechanistic studies of the role of symptom-related anxiety in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.

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