(HealthDay News) – Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is as effective as intensive medical care (IMC) for the treatment of pediatric functional abdominal pain (FAP), according to a study published online Oct. 14 in Pediatrics.

Shelley M.C. van der Veek, PhD, from the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, and colleagues conducted a randomized trial involving 104 children (aged 7–18 years) to examine the effectiveness of CBT vs. IMC for treatment of pediatric FAP. The children were randomized to either six sessions of CBT delivered primarily by trained master’s degree students in psychology or six visits of IMC delivered by a pediatrician or pediatric gastroenterologist. Children were assessed pretreatment, post-treatment, and after six and 12 months. Abdominal pain levels were assessed using questionnaires and diaries. Secondary outcomes studied: other gastrointestinal complaints, functional disability, other somatic complaints, anxiety, depression, and quality of life.

The researchers observed a significant decrease in abdominal pain with both CBT and IMC; no significant differences were found in the effectiveness of the treatments. One year after treatment, significant improvement or recovery was seen in 60% of the CBT group and 56.4% of the IMC group (P=0.47) based on questionnaire-derived data, and in 65.8% and 62.8%, respectively (P=0.14), based on diary-derived data. After treatment, nearly all secondary outcomes improved.

“CBT appears effective in the treatment of children with FAP but is equally effective as an intensified form of medical care delivered by pediatricians or pediatric gastroenterologists experienced in treating children with functional gastrointestinal disorders,” the authors write.

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