[Skip to Navigation]
January 1986

Patients With Multiple Unexplained Symptoms: Their Characteristics, Functional Health, and Health Care Utilization

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Psychiatry (Dr Smith and Ms Ray) and Medicine (Drs Smith and Monson), University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock.

Arch Intern Med. 1986;146(1):69-72. doi:10.1001/archinte.1986.00360130079012

To define groups of patients with inappropriately high health care utilization better, we have studied a group of 41 chronically ill patients to determine their characteristics, symptoms, functional health status, and amount of health care utilization. This group had somatization disorder diagnosed by specific criteria. They can be easily recognized by primary care physicians by their multiple complaints, negative physical examination results, and a history of multiple medical examinations. We found them to be functionally disabled, spending an average of seven days ill in bed each month. They perceived themselves as severely ill and were willing to undergo multiple hospitalizations, diagnostic studies, and operations. Their health care charges were extraordinary, averaging $4,700 annually. The physician can most effectively treat these patients by scheduling regular visits, relying on physical examinations rather than diagnostic studies, and avoiding costly hospitalizations.

(Arch Intern Med 1986;146:69-72)

Add or change institution