Objective To determine the best faecal calprotectin (FCP) cut-off level for differentiating between irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and organic disease, particularly inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), in patients presenting with chronic diarrhoea.
Design Retrospective analysis of patients who had colonoscopy, histology and FCP completed within 2 months.
Setting District general hospital.
Patients Consecutive new patients with chronic diarrhoea lasting longer than 4 weeks.
Interventions Patients were seen by a single experienced gastroenterologist and listed for colonoscopy with histology. Laboratory investigations included a single faecal specimen for calprotectin assay (lower limit of detection: 8 µg/g), the results used for information only.
Main outcome measures Six FCP cut-off levels (range 8–150 µg/g) were compared against the ‘gold standard’ of histology: inflammation ‘present’ or ‘absent’.
Results Of 119 patients studied, 98 had normal colonoscopy and histology. The sensitivity of FCP to detect IBD at cut-off levels 8, 25 and 50 µg/g was 100% (with corresponding specificity 51%, 51%, 60%). In contrast, the lowest FCP cut-off, 8 µg/g, had 100% sensitivity to detect colonic inflammation, irrespective of cause (with negative predictive value (NPV) 100%). Importantly, 50/119 patients (42%) with FCP <8 µg/g had normal colonoscopy and histology.
Conclusions Our results suggest that using FCP to screen patients newly referred for chronic diarrhoea could exclude all without IBD and, at a lower cut-off, all without colonic inflammation, thus avoiding the need for colonoscopy. Such a major reduction has implications for resource allocation.
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