A prospective study of dyspepsia was carried out in a primary referral hospital between 1974-1987 including 1540 patients of whom 1433 were seen as outpatients. The study protocol was agreed in advance and a structured questionnaire was used to elicit relevant clinical information: up to three diagnoses were permitted for each patient. The commonest principal diagnoses were duodenal ulcer (26%), functional dyspepsia (22%), and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (15%); alcohol related dyspepsia (4%) was as common as gastric carcinoma or symptomatic gall stones. Multiple diagnoses were common (31% given two diagnoses, and 6% given three) so that in all 2111 diagnoses were given to 1540 patients; the functional disorders (IBS and functional dyspepsia) considered together accounted for 39% of all diagnoses made. Whereas organic conditions were diagnosed by clinicians with confidence (63-98% considered 'certain'), even when given as the principal or first diagnosis IBS was considered 'certain' in only 61% and functional dyspepsia 48%. The demographic symptom data, together with information on tobacco and alcohol use, and work lost are described in detail.
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