Systematic review, meta-analysis with subgroup analysis of hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, effect of intervention characteristics

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Background – Hypnotherapy has been shown to be effective at relieving global gastrointestinal symptoms (GGS) in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This study examines the impact of hypnotherapy delivery and participant characteristics on IBS outcomes.

Methods –This systematic review searched CINAHL, Cochrane Library, Conference Citation Index, Embase, PubMed, PsycARTICLES, PsychINFO, Science Citation index-expanded, Social Science Citation Index. Titles and abstracts, then full-text articles were screened against inclusion criteria: trials with a concurrent comparator of hypnotherapy in adults with IBS diagnosed using Manning or ROME criteria, which provided symptom data. Included studies were extracted and assessed for bias using Cochrane Collaboration 2011 guidance. Random-effects meta-analysis was conducted with sub-group analysis to assess the impact of delivery characteristics on outcomes.

Results –Twelve trials were included, 7 in the meta-analyses. Hypnotherapy reduced the risk of GGS, but this was not statistically significant, (standardised mean difference (SMD) 0.24, [-0.06, 0.54], I2 66%). Higher frequency of sessions (≥1/week) reduced GGS (SMD 0.45 [0.23,0.67] I2 0%), as did higher volumes of intervention (≥8 sessions with ≥6 hours of contact) (SMD 0.51 [0.27,0.76] I2 0%) and group interventions (SMD 0.45 [0.03, 0.88] I2 62%). Only volume of intervention produced a significant effect between the subgroups.

Conclusion – This review suggests that high volume hypnotherapy is more beneficial than low and should be adopted for GDH. Both high frequency and group interventions are effective in reducing GGS in IBS. However, the sample size is small and more studies are needed to confirm this.

Study registration number: PROSPERO CRD42018065533

Keywords – Irritable bowel syndrome, hypnosis, functional gastrointestinal disorder, review, Meta-analysis

GGS - Global gastrointestinal symptoms
IBS - irritable bowel syndrome

Bibliographic note

This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. However, SG and KJ are part funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Health Research Collaboration West Midlands.


Original languageEnglish
Article number102672
JournalComplementary Therapies in Medicine
Early online date27 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021