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Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diagnosed by Listening to Gut Noises

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diagnosed by Listening to Gut Noises

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  • An acoustic sensing technology has been created using AI that can diagnose irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by listening to gut noises
  • Recordings of the gut noises were able to predict IBS with high accuracy
  • New technology offers a less invasive way to diagnose this painful and sometimes debilitating condition.

Researchers have developed an acoustic belt using artificial intelligence that can be used to diagnose irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) just by listening to noises in the patient's gut.

The research was presented at Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) 2018 (http://www.ddw.org).


Artificial Intelligence(AI) uses the idea of building machines that are capable of thinking like humans. It is the broader concept of teaching machines to be able to carry out "smart" human-like tasks.

Machine Learning (ML) is by far the most promising and successful approach to AI, where humans give machines access to data and let them learn for themselves.

In the current study, the acoustic belt is the device or machine that has been programmed to distinguish between different kinds of gut noises using AI so as to be able to diagnose IBS.

IBS is a common and often painful condition; it is estimated that more than 10 percent of the world's population is affected by some form of IBS. This translates to more than 700 million people. However, diagnosis of IBS is difficult and often requires invasive technologies like a colonoscopy. Many people live with the disease for a long time before getting help. In many patients, IBS even goes undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated.

Scientists have now used AI to create a new way to diagnose and detect IBS. Using technology that was originally created to track the munching sounds of termites, researchers have created an acoustic belt to translate the rumblings and grumblings of the gut into meaningful noises.

Study Design

Researchers developed a basic prototype belt based on machine learning techniques. The belt could identify complex features and patterns of the sounds collected from within the abdomen.

The chosen study participants either had an existing clinical diagnosis of IBS or healthy digestive systems. They were asked to wear the belt. Researchers recorded their bowel sounds for two hours post-fasting, and then for 40 minutes after a standardized meal.

Preliminary Study Results

An IBS acoustic index model was built using the healthy and IBS patients. The acoustic index output of the belt predicted IBS with high accuracy thus differentiating between IBS patients and healthy individuals.

A statistical method used with the first data set of first 31 IBS and 37 healthy participants yielded 90 percent sensitivity and 92 percent specificity for IBS diagnosis.

An independent testing method used with the next data set of 15 IBS and 15 healthy subjects revealed 87 percent sensitivity and 87 percent specificity for IBS diagnosis.

"This study allowed us to achieve proof of concept. Once we further develop the belt and test it on more patients, this tool will be intended for use in primary care settings for the diagnosis of IBS," said Josephine Muir, PhD, associate director of the Marshall Centre at the University of Western Australia. "The hope is that this new technology can offer a less- invasive way to diagnose this painful, and sometimes debilitating, condition."

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a gastrointestinal (GI) disorder that is characterized by repeated abdominal pain and changes in bowel movements, which may be diarrhea, constipation, or both depending on the kind of IBS present.

Problems in brain-gut interactions that affect how the body works could be the cause of functional GI disorders like IBS. Stress, certain mental disorders, bacterial infections and food intolerances appear to be common factors present in individuals with IBS.

Diagnosis is usually initiated with the doctor reviewing your symptoms, getting a detailed medical and family history (including other digestive disorders present), and conducting a physical examination, followed by blood and stool tests. Other invasive tests like upper GI endoscopy and colonoscopy may be done to eliminate health conditions that have similar symptoms as IBS.

References :

  1. Digestive Disease Week. "Listening to gut noises could improve diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome: Acoustic technology for listening to termites may offer less-invasive method to diagnose IBS." (2018) ScienceDaily.
  2. Definition & Facts for Irritable Bowel Syndrome -(https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome/definition-facts)

Source: Medindia

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