Reid and colleagues reviewed the medical records of 361 patients who most frequently attended outpatient services in one region of England during 1993-6.
Of 971 consultations recorded during this period, over a fifth remained medically unexplained. Symptoms that were particularly likely to remain unexplained in this group included abdominal pain, chest pain, headache, and back pain.
|Frequent attenders use a disproportionate amount of healthcare resources.|
Given that frequent attenders in all medical settings are responsible for a disproportionate amount of healthcare resources, these patients should be considered a focus for attention, conclude the authors.
"The fact that a patient returns many times, despite being told there is no medical explanation for his or her symptoms, reflects continuing distress and concern," writes Jane Turner, Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry, in an accompanying editorial.
"Faced with such behaviour, health professionals must consider the possibility of depression, anxiety, or somatization," she suggests.