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November 1988

Hysterical Conversion Reactions Mimicking Neurological Disease

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pediatrics, Divisions of Neurology (Drs Bangash and Kandt) and General Pediatrics (Dr Worley), Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC.

Am J Dis Child. 1988;142(11):1203-1206. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1988.02150110081024

• Seven children with illnesses diagnosed as hysterical conversion reactions (HCRs) were treated at our institution over a period of nine months. They all had neurological symptoms that included one or more of the following: paralysis, headache, seizures, and episodic blindness. All patients but one were misdiagnosed as having an organic disease prior to our final diagnosis. Five children were treated with medications for presumed organic illnesses. In all of these children a diagnosis of HCR was made on the basis of their history and neurological examination findings. They all recovered or began recovery within a few days of having HCR diagnosed, and none of them had had a relapse three to 11 months after the diagnosis of HCR was made. We believe, and there is ample evidence in the literature, that a positive diagnosis of HCR in childhood can be made when neurological manifestations cannot be explained on an anatomic and physiological basis. Although absence of an obvious organic cause is a helpful clue, exhaustive exclusion of all possible organic causes is not necessary for the diagnosis of HCR.

(AJDC 1988;142:1203-1206)

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