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Medically unexplained physical symptoms in children in a non-specialist paediatric setting

Authors:

H Perera ,

Professor, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Colomb, LK
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ASG Asiri

Demonstrator, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Colombo, LK
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Abstract

Introduction Medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) are equally common and disabling across countries and cultures. Most prevalent symptoms identified in children are recurrent abdominal pain (RAP), headache, limb pain, and fatigue.

Objectives To identify the presenting profile of MUS and associated features in a hospital based, nonspecialist paediatric outpatient setting.

Method Randomly selected children attending the study setting were screened to identify those who fit a working definition for MUS, which specified undiagnosed symptoms being present for 3 months or more. Parents of the identified children answered an interviewer administered semi-structured questionnaire designed to investigate the profile of symptoms, their impact on the child's life, beliefs about the cause and anticipated prognosis and any associated stressful experiences in the child's life.

Results 125 children (mean age 7.8 years) were identified with MUS. Commonest presenting symptoms were abdominal pain and headache. On average, 6.01 medical consultations were made for the symptoms. Difficulties with attending school and studying were the most prominent impact of the symptoms. Majority of the mothers believed that an underlying physical disorder was present, but an associated psychologically stressful experience was identified by them in 51.2% of cases.

Conclusion Children with MUS warrant extended assessments for associated psychosocial and behavioural factors to enable effective management.  

Key words: somatization, medically unexplained physical symptoms, recurrent abdominal pain, functional symptoms

DOI = 10.4038/sljch.v36i3.61

Sri Lanka Journal of Child Health, 2007; 36: 102-106

How to Cite: Perera, H. and Asiri, A., 2008. Medically unexplained physical symptoms in children in a non-specialist paediatric setting. Sri Lanka Journal of Child Health, 36(3), pp.102–106. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/sljch.v36i3.61
Published on 24 Sep 2008.
Peer Reviewed

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