BACKGROUND: Psychological stress and anxiety, such those generated by forced quarantine, affect gastrointestinal symptoms course in patients with functional gastrointestinal disorders. Thus, our aim was to assess, in a cohort of patients regularly followed up in a devoted outpatient clinic of Southern Italy, the association between their gastrointestinal symptoms changes, stress, and anxiety reported during the Italian lockdown .
METHODS: We recruited patients from the outpatient clinic of the University of Salerno, devoted to functional gastrointestinal disorders, selecting only patients for whom an evaluation was available in the last 6 months before the lockdown . Gastrointestinal symptoms were evaluated at each visit through standardized questionnaire and pooled in a database . On 45th days from the beginning of the lockdown, patients were re-assessed by phone with the same questionnaire . Anxiety and stress levels were assessed through a self-administered online questionnaire based on Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7 test and Perceived Stress Scale 10 test . KEY
RESULTS: The intensity-frequency scores of several upper gastrointestinal symptoms improved (Wilcoxon test <0.05). Higher anxiety levels had a higher risk of worsening chest pain (OR 1.3 [1.1-1.7] ), waterbrash (OR 1.3 [1.0-1.7] ), epigastric burning (OR 1.3 [1.0-1.6] ), and abdominal pain (OR 1.6 [1.0-2.3] ). When compared to the interval preceding the outbreak, half of the patients declared their symptoms remained unchanged , 13.6% worsened, and 36.4% improved .
CONCLUSIONS AND INFERENCES: During the COVID-19 quarantine, there was an improvement of the majority of upper gastrointestinal symptoms in our patients, and anxiety seems an important risk of worsening few of them.