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Are floating stools associated with specific functional bowel disorders?

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Functional bowel disorders are recognized as being common, but remain very difficult to diagnose accurately and to differentiate from one another, despite their significant impact on the quality of life of patients.

The aim of this study was to evaluate whether the clinical sign of ‘floating stools’ is associated with psychological disorders, colonic transit time, or other specific bowel disorders as defined by the Rome III diagnostic criteria.

Materials and methods

A total of 1252 consecutive patients, referred for and found to have functional gastrointestinal disorders, filled in a standard clinical questionnaire on the basis of the Rome III diagnostic criteria and were asked to provide information on the presence of floating stools. Overall, 344 of these scored positive for functional bowel disorders and underwent psychometric testing and colonic transit time studies.


Floating stools were reported by 26% of functional bowel disorder patients and 3% of the other functional gastrointestinal disorder patients (P<0.001). The basic demographic characteristics, psychometric evaluation scores, Bristol stool form scales, and total and segmental colonic transit times were not statistically different according to the presence or not of floating stools in these patients. Logistic regression showed that mixed irritable bowel syndrome was the only functional gastrointestinal disorder associated independently with floating stools (P=0.003).


Floating stools are a characteristic of patients with mixed irritable bowel syndrome.
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Keywords: Rome III criteria; diarrhea; floating stools; irritable bowel syndrome; irritable bowel syndrome-mixed

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Physiology, Université Paris V René Descartes 15, Paris, Gastroenterology Unit, Hôpital Avicenne, Bobigny, France 2: Department of Surgery, Faculté de Médecine, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada 3: Gastroenterology Unit, Hôpital Avicenne, Bobigny, France

Publication date: August 1, 2015

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