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Articles by M. Sharpe
Total Records ( 3 ) for M. Sharpe
  J Stone , A Carson , R Duncan , R Coleman , R Roberts , C Warlow , C Hibberd , G Murray , R Cull , A Pelosi , J Cavanagh , K Matthews , R Goldbeck , R Smyth , J Walker , A.D MacMahon and M. Sharpe

It has been previously reported that a substantial proportion of newly referred neurology out-patients have symptoms that are considered by the assessing neurologist as unexplained by ‘organic disease’. There has however been much controversy about how often such patients subsequently develop a disease diagnosis that, with hindsight, would have explained the symptoms. We aimed to determine in a large sample of new neurology out-patients: (i) what proportion are assessed as having symptoms unexplained by disease and the diagnoses given to them; and (ii) how often a neurological disorder emerged which, with hindsight, explained the original symptoms. We carried out a prospective cohort study of patients referred from primary care to National Health Service neurology clinics in Scotland, UK. Measures were: (i) the proportion of patients with symptoms rated by the assessing neurologist as ‘not at all’ or only ‘somewhat explained’ by ‘organic disease’ and the neurological diagnoses recorded at initial assessment; and (ii) the frequency of unexpected new diagnoses made over the following 18 months (according to the primary-care physician). One thousand four hundred and forty-four patients (30% of all new patients) were rated as having symptoms ‘not at all’ or only ‘somewhat explained’ by ‘organic disease’. The most common categories of diagnosis were: (i) organic neurological disease but with symptoms unexplained by it (26%); (ii) headache disorders (26%); and (iii) conversion symptoms (motor, sensory or non-epileptic attacks) (18%). At follow-up only 4 out of 1030 patients (0.4%) had acquired an organic disease diagnosis that was unexpected at initial assessment and plausibly the cause of the patients’ original symptoms. Eight patients had died at follow-up; five of whom had initial diagnoses of non-epileptic attacks. Seven other types of diagnostic change with very different implications to a ‘missed diagnosis’ were found and a new classification of diagnostic revision is presented. One-third of new neurology out-patients are assessed as having symptoms ‘unexplained by organic disease’. A new diagnosis, which with hindsight explained the original symptoms, rarely became apparent to the patient's primary care doctor in the 18 months following the initial hospital consultation.

  J Stone , C Warlow and M. Sharpe

Functional weakness describes weakness which is both internally inconsistent and incongruent with any recognizable neurological disease. It may be diagnosed as a manifestation of conversion disorder or dissociative motor disorder. Other names include psychogenic or ‘non-organic’ paralysis. We aimed to describe the incidence, demographic and clinical characteristics of cases with functional weakness of less than 2 years duration, and to compare these with controls with weakness attributable to neurological disease. Both cases and controls were recruited from consultant neurologists in South East Scotland. Participating patients underwent detailed assessments which included: physical examination, structured psychiatric interview (Structured Clinical Interview for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), measures of symptoms, disability and distress [Short Form (36) Health Survey, Hospital and Anxiety Depression Scale], and assessment of their illness beliefs using an augmented version of the Illness Perception Questionnaire. In total, 107 cases (79% female, mean age 39 years, median duration of illness 9 months) were recruited. This number suggests a minimum annual incidence of 3.9/100 000. Forty-six controls (83% female, median age 39 years, duration 11 months) were also recruited. Compared to controls, cases had similar levels of disability but more physical symptoms, especially pain. They had a higher frequency of psychiatric disorders, especially current major depression (32 versus 7%, P < 0.0001), generalized anxiety disorder (21 versus 2%, P < 0.005), panic disorder (36 versus 13%, P < 0.001) and somatization disorder (27 versus 0%, P < 0001). There was no difference in median self-rated anxiety and depression scores. Paradoxically, they were less likely than controls to agree that stress was a possible cause of their illness (24 versus 56%, P < 0.001). Cases were twice as likely as controls to report that they were not working because of their symptoms (65 versus 33%, P < 0.0005). Functional weakness is a commonly encountered clinical problem. Patients with this symptom are as disabled as patients with weakness of similar duration due to neurological disease. There is a paradox between the frequency of depression and anxiety diagnoses and the patient’s willingness to accept these as potentially relevant to their symptoms. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these findings for the concept of conversion disorder.

  K McGorm , C Burton , D Weller , G Murray and M. Sharpe

Background. Patients with medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) are commonly referred to specialist clinics. Repeated referrals suggest unmet patient need and inefficient use of resources.

Objectives. How often does this happen, who are the patients and how are they referred?

Methods. The design of the study is a case-control survey. The setting of the study is five general practices in Scotland, UK. The cases were 193 adults with three or more referrals over 5 years, at least two of which resulted in a diagnosis of MUS. The controls were (i) patients referred only once over 5 years and (ii) patients with three or more referrals with symptoms always diagnosed as medically explained. The measures of the study are SF-12 physical and mental component summaries; symptom count; and number of referrals, number of different GPs who had referred and number of specialist follow-up appointments.

Results. A total of 1.1% [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.0–1.2%] of patients had repeated (median 3, range 2–6) referrals with MUS. Compared to infrequently referred controls, they were older and more likely to be female, living alone and unemployed. Compared to controls with medically explained symptoms, their health status was comparable or worse: odds ratio for SF-12 physical component summary <40, 1.2 (95% CI 0.72–2.0); SF-12 mental component summary <40, 1.8 (95% CI 1.1–3.0); reporting eight or more physical symptoms, 2.2 (95% CI 1.2–3.8). They were referred by more GPs and received less specialist follow-up.

Conclusions. A small proportion of primary care patients are repeatedly referred to specialist clinics where they receive multiple diagnoses of MUS. The needs of these patients and how they are managed merits greater attention.

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