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The European Journal of Psychiatry

versión impresa ISSN 0213-6163


ROSENDAL, M. et al. Improving the Classification of Medically Unexplained Symptoms in Primary Care. Eur. J. Psychiat. [online]. 2007, vol.21, n.1, pp.25-36. ISSN 0213-6163.

Background: Many patients in primary care complain of physical symptoms not attributable to any known conventionally defined disease, i.e. medically unexplained symptoms (MUS). Objectives: This paper aims to present the problems with our current classification of MUS in general practice and propose new criteria for the classification of Medically Unexplained Symptoms in a future edition of the International Classification of Primary Care (ICPC). Methods: Discussion of European classification systems in relation to current evidence about MUS in primary care. Results: At present, clinical care and research are hampered by the lack of a valid and reliable diagnostic classification of MUS. A particular problem in primary care is that the diagnostic category of somatoform disorders only includes persistent cases and therefore offers no opportunity for the classification of many patients with MUS in general practice. We propose new diagnostic criteria for MUS that can easily be integrated in a future edition of the ICPC. The criteria introduce mild to moderate MUS into the chapter of general and unspecified health problems if the patient has at least three MUS during an episode of care, whereas severe conditions are kept in the psychological chapter under the diagnoses applied until now. Conclusion: A diagnosis and classification of MUS is essential for the prediction of prognosis and the choice of appropriate care for these patients in general practice. It remains to be evaluated in epidemiologic research whether the proposed classification criteria fulfil this purpose.

Palabras clave : Diagnosis; Classification; Primary health care; Somatoform disorder; symptoms and signs; ICPC.

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