Seminar Details


A prospective cohort study of the course, morbidity and health care use by patients with unexplained physical symptoms in primary care

Friday, 24th May 2013

13.00– 14.00

(12.45 for sandwiches)

Seminar Room 1
Upper 3rd Floor, PCPH, UCL (Royal Free Campus)
Speaker: Kethakie Sumathipala

A variety of physical symptoms such as pain, dizziness or shortness of breath, are often not explained by a general medical condition even after thorough examination and relevant investigations. It is suggested that up to a third of people consulting their GPs may have such ‘unexplained physical symptoms.’ Lack of diagnosis is often distressing for patients and difficult for doctors to manage. Unexplained physical symptoms can also result in high medical and social care costs, due to multiple investigations, repeated consultations and sickness absence. Evidence suggests up to half of patients will have spontaneous resolution of their symptoms but there is a lack of understanding about who may improve or not and about how to predict who will continue to experience symptoms at six months and at one year. Identifying prognostic factors in this patient population, can aid GP decision making on the best course of action for individual patients.

This PhD aims to determine the course of unexplained physical symptoms in primary care patients and identify factors predictive of a poorer outcome in terms of persistent symptoms, reduced quality of life, impaired psychological well-being and increased health care use in primary care. Eligible patients identified from 6 north London general practice waiting rooms using a screening questionnaire, will be invited to complete three questionnaires over a year. Baseline data will be collected on potential predictive factors, including anxiety, depression, family health history, childhood trauma, stressful life events and management approaches. Follow-up data will be collected on the outcome measures indicated above.

In this seminar I will provide an introduction to unexplained physical symptoms and the various terminologies used to define these, describe the specific objectives of the study and the questionnaires and methods used, and discuss the progress of the study so far. I will also discuss my plans for the remainder of the PhD.

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