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Article
August 1990

The Prevalence of Symptoms in Medical Outpatients and the Adequacy of Therapy

Arch Intern Med. 1990;150(8):1685-1689. doi:10.1001/archinte.1990.00040031685016
Abstract

Common symptoms account for substantial patient disability and health services utilization. To determine the prevalence of 15 symptoms and the adequacy of therapy, 500 medical outpatients were surveyed. The 410 respondents indicated which symptoms were "major problems" and what therapy, if any, had been helpful. Each symptom was present in at least 10% of patients, with the most prevalent symptoms being fatigue (33%) and back pain (32%). Patients were clustered into three groups: (1) 140 were asymptomatic or monosymptomatic, (2) 135 reported 2 or 3 symptoms, and (3) 135 had 4 or more symptoms. The majority (77%) of these symptoms had been previously reported to a physician. Whereas 80% of patients with pain syndromes and gastrointestinal complaints had obtained some therapeutic benefit, only 39% of the individuals with fatigue, dyspnea, dizziness, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, depression, and anxiety reported any relief. Better therapy is needed for these common outpatient complaints.

(Arch Intern Med. 1990;150:1685-1689)

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