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Frequent attenders in secondary care: a 3-year follow-up study of patients with medically unexplained symptoms

  • S. REID (a1), T. CRAYFORD (a1), A. PATEL (a1), S. WESSELY (a1) and M. HOTOPF (a1)...


Background. There are few longitudinal studies of patients with medically unexplained symptoms. The aim of this study was to investigate outcome in frequent attenders in secondary care who present repeatedly with medically unexplained symptoms.

Method. Forty-eight patients presenting with medically unexplained symptoms, from a sample of 61, participated in a 3-year follow-up study. Psychiatric morbidity, functional impairment and use of services were evaluated.

Results. At follow-up there was a high prevalence of psychiatric morbidity with 69% having at least one psychiatric diagnosis. The sample continued to be high users of a range of health services and substantial functional impairment was reported.

Conclusion. In this group of frequent attenders with medically unexplained symptoms outcome as measured by psychiatric morbidity, service use and functional impairment remained poor after 3 years.


Corresponding author

Dr Steven Reid, Paterson Centre for Mental Health, St Mary's Hospital, 20 South Wharf Road, London W2 1PD.


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