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1.  Neurologists' understanding and management of conversion disorder 
Conversion disorder is largely managed by neurologists, for whom it presents great challenges to understanding and management. This study aimed to quantify these challenges, examining how neurologists understand conversion disorder, and what they tell their patients.
A postal survey of all consultant neurologists in the UK registered with the Association of British Neurologists.
349 of 591 practising consultant neurologists completed the survey. They saw conversion disorder commonly. While they endorsed psychological models for conversion, they diagnosed it according to features of the clinical presentation, most importantly inconsistency and abnormal illness behaviour. Most of the respondents saw feigning as entangled with conversion disorder, with a minority seeing one as a variant of the other. They were quite willing to discuss psychological factors as long as the patient was receptive but were generally unwilling to discuss feigning even though they saw it as their responsibility. Those who favoured models in terms of feigning were older, while younger, female neurologists preferred psychological models, believed conversion would one day be understood neurologically and found communicating with their conversion patients easier than it had been in the past.
Neurologists accept psychological models for conversion disorder but do not employ them in their diagnosis; they do not see conversion as clearly different from feigning. This may be changing as younger, female neurologists endorse psychological views more clearly and find it easier to discuss with their patients.
PMCID: PMC3191819  PMID: 21325661
2.  Limits to truth-telling: Neurologists’ communication in conversion disorder 
Patient Education and Counseling  2009;77(2):296-301.
Neurologists face a dilemma when communicating with their conversion disorder patients – whether to be frank, and risk losing the patient's trust, or to disclose less, in the hope of building a therapeutic relationship. This study reports how neurologists in the UK described dealing with this dilemma in their practice.
Practicing consultant neurologists from an NHS region were recruited by snowball sampling. Twenty-two of 35 consultants in the region were interviewed in depth, and the interviews qualitatively analysed.
The neurologists were reluctant to disclose conversion disorder as a differential diagnosis until they were certain. They were guided by the receptivity of their patients as to how psychological to make their eventual explanations, but they did not discuss their suspicions about feigning. They described their communications as much easier now than they had seen in training.
Neurologists adapt their disclosure to their patients, which facilitates communication, but imposes some limits on truth-telling. In particular, it may sometimes result in a changed diagnosis.
Practice implications
An optimum strategy for communicating diagnoses will need to balance ethical considerations with demonstrated therapeutic benefit.
PMCID: PMC2773836  PMID: 19560894
Conversion disorder; Factitious disorder; Malingering; Hysteria; Truth-telling; Deception; Neurology
3.  The function of ‘functional’: a mixed methods investigation 
The term ‘functional’ has a distinguished history, embodying a number of physiological concepts, but has increasingly come to mean ‘hysterical’. The DSM-V working group proposes to use ‘functional’ as the official diagnostic term for medically unexplained neurological symptoms (currently known as ‘conversion disorder’). This study aimed to explore the current neurological meanings of the term and to understand its resilience.
Mixed methods were used, first interviewing the neurologists in a large UK region and then surveying all neurologists in the UK on their use of the term.
The interviews revealed four dominant uses—‘not organic’, a physical disability, a brain disorder and a psychiatric problem—as well as considerable ambiguity. Although there was much dissatisfaction with the term, the ambiguity was also seen as useful when engaging with patients. The survey confirmed these findings, with a majority adhering to a strict interpretation of ‘functional’ to mean only ‘not organic’, but a minority employing it to mean different things in different contexts - and endorsing the view that ‘functional’ would one day be a neurological construct again.
‘Functional’ embodies real divisions in neurologists' conceptualisation of unexplained symptoms and, perhaps, between those of patients and neurologists: its diversity of meanings allows it to be a common term while meaning different things to different people, or at different times, and thus conceal some of the conflict in a particularly contentious area. This flexibility may help explain the term's longevity.
PMCID: PMC3277687  PMID: 22250186
4.  The role of psychiatrists in diagnosing conversion disorder: a mixed-methods analysis 
Since DSM-5 removed the requirement for a psychosocial formulation, neurologists have been able to make the diagnosis of conversion disorder without psychiatric input. We sought to examine whether neurologists and specialist psychiatrists concurred with this approach.
We used mixed methods, first surveying all the neurologists in the UK and then interviewing the neuropsychiatrists in a large UK region on the role of psychiatrists in diagnosing conversion disorder.
Of the surveyed neurologists, 76% did not think that psychiatrists were essential for the diagnosis and 71% thought that psychiatrists did not even consider conversion disorder when referred a case. The neuropsychiatrists who were interviewed held complex models of conversion disorder. They believed all cases could be explained psychosocially in theory, but the nature of the diagnostic encounter often prevented it in practice; all felt that psychosocial formulation could be very helpful and some felt that it was essential to diagnosis.
Although neurologists do not think psychiatrists are required for diagnosing conversion disorder, specialist psychiatrists disagree, at least in some cases.
PMCID: PMC4869792  PMID: 27274253
functional neurological disorders; classification; qualitative research; survey; psychiatric formulation
5.  Slater revisited: 6 year follow up study of patients with medically unexplained motor symptoms 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1998;316(7131):582-586.
Objective: To investigate psychiatric and neurological morbidity, diagnostic stability, and indicators of prognosis in patients previously identified as having medically unexplained motor symptoms.
Design: Follow up study.
Setting: National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, London—a secondary and tertiary referral hospital for neurological disorders.
Subjects: 73 patients with medically unexplained motor symptoms admitted consecutively in 1989-91. 35 (48%) patients had absence of motor function (for example, hemiplegia) and 38 (52%) had abnormal motor activity (for example, tremor, dystonia, or ataxia).
Main outcome measures: Neurological clinical diagnosis at face to face reassessment by a neurologist and a psychiatric diagnosis after a standardised assessment interview—the schedule for affective disorders and schizophrenia—conducted by a psychiatrist.
Results: Good follow up data were available for 64 subjects (88%). Only three subjects had new organic neurological disorders at follow up that fully or partly explained their previous symptoms. 44/59 (75%) subjects had had psychiatric disorders; in 33 (75%) patients, the psychiatric diagnosis coincided with their unexplained motor symptoms. 31/59 (45%) patients had a personality disorder. Three subjects had developed new psychiatric illnesses at follow up, but in only one did the diagnosis account for the previous motor symptoms. Resolution of physical symptoms was associated with short length of symptoms, comorbid psychiatric disorder, and a change in marital status during follow up.
Conclusions: Unlike Slater’s study of 1965, a low incidence of physical or psychiatric diagnoses which explained these patients’ symptoms or disability was found. However, a high level of psychiatric comorbidity existed.
Key messages Motor symptoms that remain unexplained medically despite thorough investigation are a common clinical problem, but the emergence of a subsequent organic explanation for these symptoms is rare The prevalence of coexistent affective and anxiety disorders is high and many patients also have a personality disorder Patients with a shorter duration of symptoms and coexistent anxiety or depression are likely to do better at follow up Reinvestigation of these patients is both expensive and potentially dangerous and should be avoided where no clear clinical indication exists
PMCID: PMC28460  PMID: 9518908
6.  The Classification of Hysteria and Related Disorders: Historical and Phenomenological Considerations 
Behavioral Sciences  2015;5(4):496-517.
This article examines the history of the conceptualization of dissociative, conversion, and somatoform syndromes in relation to one another, chronicles efforts to classify these and other phenomenologically-related psychopathology in the American diagnostic system for mental disorders, and traces the subsequent divergence in opinions of dissenting sectors on classification of these disorders. This article then considers the extensive phenomenological overlap across these disorders in empirical research, and from this foundation presents a new model for the conceptualization of these disorders. The classification of disorders formerly known as hysteria and phenomenologically-related syndromes has long been contentious and unsettled. Examination of the long history of the conceptual difficulties, which remain inherent in existing classification schemes for these disorders, can help to address the continuing controversy. This review clarifies the need for a major conceptual revision of the current classification of these disorders. A new phenomenologically-based classification scheme for these disorders is proposed that is more compatible with the agnostic and atheoretical approach to diagnosis of mental disorders used by the current classification system.
PMCID: PMC4695775  PMID: 26561836
dissociation; conversion; somatization; borderline personality disorder; hysteria; diagnostic classification; Briquet’s syndrome; nosology; diagnostic comorbidity; mental disorders
7.  'Hysteria', 'functional' or 'psychogenic'? A survey of British neurologists' preferences. 
The diagnostic preferences of British neurologists for patients who lack a physical explanation for their symptoms were assessed by means of a postal questionnaire. Analysis of 168 completed replies showed 'functional', 'psychogenic' and 'hysteria' to be the most popular terms in use. The number of different terms a clinician would use rose in line with the volume of such patients they encountered, but was unrelated to clinician factors such as the extent of their clinical experience in psychiatry. A specific enquiry into these respondents' interpretation of the term 'functional' revealed a clear consensus as to which syndromes it should apply to, although this consensus was not shared by a comparison group of psychiatrists.
PMCID: PMC1293375  PMID: 1886115
8.  Treatment selection and experience in multiple sclerosis: survey of neurologists 
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex disease with many therapeutic options. Little is known about how neurologists select particular disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) for their patients.
To understand how neurologists make decisions regarding the prescription of DMTs for patients with MS, and to explore neurologists’ experiences with individual DMTs.
From December 2012 to January 2013, members of a nationwide physician market research panel were sent an online study invitation with a link to a survey website. Eligible neurologists were included if they currently practice medicine in the United States, and if they treat ≥20 patients with MS.
A total of 102 neurologists (n=63 general neurologists; n=39 MS specialists; 81.4% male) completed the survey. The mean (standard deviation) number of years in practice since completing medical training was 16.4 (8.6) years. Overall, the most commonly prescribed DMTs were subcutaneous interferon (IFN) β-1a and glatiramer acetate; approximately 5.5% of patients were untreated. The most important attributes of DMT medication selection were (in order of importance) efficacy, safety, tolerability, patient preference, and convenience. The DMT with the highest neurologist-reported percentage of patients who were “Very/Extremely Satisfied” with their therapy was fingolimod (31.0%), followed by glatiramer acetate (13.9%; P=0.017). Compared with fingolimod (94.0%), significantly fewer (P<0.05) neurologists reported that “All/Most” of their patients were adherent to treatment with glatiramer acetate (78.0%), subcutaneous IFN β-1a (84.0%), and IFN β-1b (75.0%); no significant differences were observed with intramuscular IFN β-1a (92.9%; P=0.75). Patients’ calls to neurologists’ offices were most commonly related to side effects for all self-injectable DMTs, whereas calls about fingolimod primarily involved insurance coverage issues.
Our survey results showed that very few patients with MS did not received any DMT. Among the DMTs available at the time of the survey, neurologists reported that patients were most satisfied with, and adherent to, fingolimod, but these patients also faced more problems with insurance coverage when compared with those taking self-injectable DMTs.
PMCID: PMC3979792  PMID: 24729689
multiple sclerosis; disease-modifying therapy; physician survey; treatment selection; treatment adherence; treatment satisfaction
9.  Functional symptoms in neurology: questions and answers 
Between 10 and 30% of patients seen by neurologists have symptoms for which there is no current pathophysiological explanation. The objective of this review is to answer questions many neurologists have about disorders characterised by unexplained symptoms (functional disorders) by conducting a multidisciplinary review based on published reports and clinical experience. Current concepts explain functional symptoms as resulting from auto-suggestion, innate coping styles, disorders of volition or attention. Predisposing, precipitating, and perpetuating aetiological factors can be identified and contribute to a therapeutic formulation. The sympathetic communication of the diagnosis by the neurologist is important and all patients should be screened for psychiatric or psychological symptoms because up to two thirds have symptomatic psychiatric comorbidity. Treatment programmes are likely to be most successful if there is close collaboration between neurologists, (liaison) psychiatrists, psychologists, and general practitioners. Long term, symptoms persist in over 50% of patients and many patients remain dependent on financial help from the government. Neurologists can acquire the skills needed to engage patients in psychological treatment but would benefit from closer working relationships with liaison psychiatry or psychology.
PMCID: PMC1739564  PMID: 15716517
10.  Neuroimaging for the Evaluation of Chronic Headaches 
Executive Summary
The objectives of this evidence based review are:
i) To determine the effectiveness of computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans in the evaluation of persons with a chronic headache and a normal neurological examination.
ii) To determine the comparative effectiveness of CT and MRI scans for detecting significant intracranial abnormalities in persons with chronic headache and a normal neurological exam.
iii) To determine the budget impact of CT and MRI scans for persons with a chronic headache and a normal neurological exam.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Headaches disorders are generally classified as either primary or secondary with further sub-classifications into specific headache types. Primary headaches are those not caused by a disease or medical condition and include i) tension-type headache, ii) migraine, iii) cluster headache and, iv) other primary headaches, such as hemicrania continua and new daily persistent headache. Secondary headaches include those headaches caused by an underlying medical condition. While primary headaches disorders are far more frequent than secondary headache disorders, there is an urge to carry out neuroimaging studies (CT and/or MRI scans) out of fear of missing uncommon secondary causes and often to relieve patient anxiety.
Tension type headaches are the most common primary headache disorder and migraines are the most common severe primary headache disorder. Cluster headaches are a type of trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia and are less common than migraines and tension type headaches. Chronic headaches are defined as headaches present for at least 3 months and lasting greater than or equal to 15 days per month. The International Classification of Headache Disorders states that for most secondary headaches the characteristics of the headache are poorly described in the literature and for those headache disorders where it is well described there are few diagnostically important features.
The global prevalence of headache in general in the adult population is estimated at 46%, for tension-type headache it is 42% and 11% for migraine headache. The estimated prevalence of cluster headaches is 0.1% or 1 in 1000 persons. The prevalence of chronic daily headache is estimated at 3%.
Computed Tomography
Computed tomography (CT) is a medical imaging technique used to aid diagnosis and to guide interventional and therapeutic procedures. It allows rapid acquisition of high-resolution three-dimensional images, providing radiologists and other physicians with cross-sectional views of a person’s anatomy. CT scanning poses risk of radiation exposure. The radiation exposure from a conventional CT scanner may emit effective doses of 2-4mSv for a typical head CT.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a medical imaging technique used to aid diagnosis but unlike CT it does not use ionizing radiation. Instead, it uses a strong magnetic field to image a person’s anatomy. Compared to CT, MRI can provide increased contrast between the soft tissues of the body. Because of the persistent magnetic field, extra care is required in the magnetic resonance environment to ensure that injury or harm does not come to any personnel while in the environment.
Research Questions
What is the effectiveness of CT and MRI scanning in the evaluation of persons with a chronic headache and a normal neurological examination?
What is the comparative effectiveness of CT and MRI scanning for detecting significant intracranial abnormality in persons with chronic headache and a normal neurological exam?
What is the budget impact of CT and MRI scans for persons with a chronic headache and a normal neurological exam.
Research Methods
Literature Search
Search Strategy
A literature search was performed on February 18, 2010 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from January, 2005 to February, 2010. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search. Articles with an unknown eligibility were reviewed with a second clinical epidemiologist and then a group of epidemiologists until consensus was established.
Inclusion Criteria
Systematic reviews, randomized controlled trials, observational studies
Outpatient adult population with chronic headache and normal neurological exam
Studies reporting likelihood ratio of clinical variables for a significant intracranial abnormality
English language studies
Exclusion Criteria
Studies which report outcomes for persons with seizures, focal symptoms, recent/new onset headache, change in presentation, thunderclap headache, and headache due to trauma
Persons with abnormal neurological examination
Case reports
Outcomes of Interest
Primary Outcome
Probability for intracranial abnormality
Secondary Outcome
Patient relief from anxiety
System service use
System costs
Detection rates for significant abnormalities in MRI and CT scans
Summary of Findings
One systematic review, 1 small RCT, and 1 observational study met the inclusion and exclusion criteria. The systematic review completed by Detsky, et al. reported the likelihood ratios of specific clinical variables to predict significant intracranial abnormalities. The RCT completed by Howard et al., evaluated whether neuroimaging persons with chronic headache increased or reduced patient anxiety. The prospective observational study by Sempere et al., provided evidence for the pre-test probability of intracranial abnormalities in persons with chronic headache as well as minimal data on the comparative effectiveness of CT and MRI to detect intracranial abnormalities.
Outcome 1: Pre-test Probability.
The pre-test probability is usually related to the prevalence of the disease and can be adjusted depending on the characteristics of the population. The study by Sempere et al. determined the pre-test probability (prevalence) of significant intracranial abnormalities in persons with chronic headaches defined as headache experienced for at least a 4 week duration with a normal neurological exam. There is a pre-test probability of 0.9% (95% CI 0.5, 1.4) in persons with chronic headache and normal neurological exam. The highest pre-test probability of 5 found in persons with cluster headaches. The second highest, that of 3.7, was reported in persons with indeterminate type headache. There was a 0.75% rate of incidental findings.
Likelihood ratios for detecting a significant abnormality
Clinical findings from the history and physical may be used as screening test to predict abnormalities on neuroimaging. The extent to which the clinical variable may be a good predictive variable can be captured by reporting its likelihood ratio. The likelihood ratio provides an estimate of how much a test result will change the odds of having a disease or condition. The positive likelihood ratio (LR+) tells you how much the odds of having the disease increases when a test is positive. The negative likelihood ratio (LR-) tells you how much the odds of having the disease decreases when the test is negative.
Detsky et al., determined the likelihood ratio for specific clinical variable from 11 studies. There were 4 clinical variables with both statistically significant positive and negative likelihood ratios. These included: abnormal neurological exam (LR+ 5.3, LR- 0.72), undefined headache (LR+ 3.8, LR- 0.66), headache aggravated by exertion or valsalva (LR+ 2.3, LR- 0.70), and headache with vomiting (LR+ 1.8, and LR- 0.47). There were two clinical variables with a statistically significant positive likelihood ratio and non significant negative likelihood ratio. These included: cluster-type headache (LR+ 11, LR- 0.95), and headache with aura (LR+ 12.9, LR- 0.52). Finally, there were 8 clinical variables with both statistically non significant positive and negative likelihood ratios. These included: headache with focal symptoms, new onset headache, quick onset headache, worsening headache, male gender, headache with nausea, increased headache severity, and migraine type headache.
Outcome 2: Relief from Anxiety
Howard et al. completed an RCT of 150 persons to determine if neuroimaging for headaches was anxiolytic or anxiogenic. Persons were randomized to receiving either an MRI scan or no scan for investigation of their headache. The study population was stratified into those persons with a Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale (HADS) > 11 (the high anxiety and depression group) and those < 11 (the low anxiety and depression) so that there were 4 groups:
Group 1: High anxiety and depression, no scan group
Group 2: High anxiety and depression, scan group
Group 3: Low anxiety and depression, no scan group
Group 4: Low anxiety and depression, scan group
There was no evidence for any overall reduction in anxiety at 1 year as measured by a visual analogue scale of ‘level of worry’ when analysed by whether the person received a scan or not. Similarly, there was no interaction between anxiety and depression status and whether a scan was offered or not on patient anxiety. Anxiety did not decrease at 1 year to any statistically significant degree in the high anxiety and depression group (HADS positive) compared with the low anxiety and depression group (HADS negative).
There are serious methodological limitations in this study design which may have contributed to these negative results. First, when considering the comparison of ‘scan’ vs. ‘no scan’ groups, 12 people (16%) in the ‘no scan group’ actually received a scan within the follow up year. If indeed scanning does reduce anxiety then this contamination of the ‘no scan’ group may have reduced the effect between the groups results resulting in a non significant difference in anxiety scores between the ‘scanned’ and the ‘no scan’ group. Second, there was an inadequate sample size at 1 year follow up in each of the 4 groups which may have contributed to a Type II statistical error (missing a difference when one may exist) when comparing scan vs. no scan by anxiety and depression status. Therefore, based on the results and study limitations it is inconclusive as to whether scanning reduces anxiety.
Outcome 3: System Services
Howard et al., considered services used and system costs a secondary outcome. These were determined by examining primary care case notes at 1 year for consultation rates, symptoms, further investigations, and contact with secondary and tertiary care.
System Services
The authors report that the use of neurologist and psychiatrist services was significantly higher for those persons not offered as scan, regardless of their anxiety and depression status (P<0.001 for neurologist, and P=0.033 for psychiatrist)
Outcome 4: System Costs
System Costs
There was evidence of statistically significantly lower system costs if persons with high levels of anxiety and depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale score >11) were provided with a scan (P=0.03 including inpatient costs, and 0.047 excluding inpatient costs).
Comparative Effectiveness of CT and MRI Scans
One study reported the detection rate for significant intracranial abnormalities using CT and MRI. In a cohort of 1876 persons with a non acute headache defined as any type of headache that had begun at least 4 weeks before enrolment Sempere et al. reported that the detection rate was 19/1432 (1.3%) using CT and 4/444 (0.9%) using MRI. Of 119 normal CT scans 2 (1.7%) had significant intracranial abnormality on MRI. The 2 cases were a small meningioma, and an acoustic neurinoma.
The evidence presented can be summarized as follows:
Pre-test Probability
Based on the results by Sempere et al., there is a low pre-test probability for intracranial abnormalities in persons with chronic headaches and a normal neurological exam (defined as headaches experiences for a minimum of 4 weeks). The Grade quality of evidence supporting this outcome is very low.
Likelihood Ratios
Based on the systematic review by Detsky et al., there is a statistically significant positive and negative likelihood ratio for the following clinical variables: abnormal neurological exam, undefined headache, headache aggravated by exertion or valsalva, headache with vomiting. Grade quality of evidence supporting this outcome is very low.
Based on the systematic review by Detsky et al. there is a statistically significant positive likelihood ratio but non statistically significant negative likelihood ratio for the following clinical variables: cluster headache and headache with aura. The Grade quality of evidence supporting this outcome is very low.
Based on the systematic review by Detsky et al., there is a non significant positive and negative likelihood ratio for the following clinical variables: headache with focal symptoms, new onset headache, quick onset headache, worsening headache, male gender, headache with nausea, increased headache severity, migraine type headache. The Grade quality of evidence supporting this outcome is very low.
Relief from Anxiety
Based on the RCT by Howard et al., it is inconclusive whether neuroimaging scans in persons with a chronic headache are anxiolytic. The Grade quality of evidence supporting this outcome is low.
System Services
Based on the RCT by Howard et al. scanning persons with chronic headache regardless of their anxiety and/or depression level reduces service use. The Grade quality of evidence is low.
System Costs
Based on the RCT by Howard et al., scanning persons with a score greater than 11 on the High Anxiety and Depression Scale reduces system costs. The Grade quality of evidence is moderate.
Comparative Effectiveness of CT and MRI Scans
There is sparse evidence to determine the relative effectiveness of CT compared with MRI scanning for the detection of intracranial abnormalities. The Grade quality of evidence supporting this is very low.
Economic Analysis
Ontario Perspective
Volumes for neuroimaging of the head i.e. CT and MRI scans, from the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) data set were used to investigate trends in the province for Fiscal Years (FY) 2004-2009.
Assumptions were made in order to investigate neuroimaging of the head for the indication of headache. From the literature, 27% of all CT and 13% of all MRI scans for the head were assumed to include an indication of headache. From that same retrospective chart review and personal communication with the author 16% of CT scans and 4% of MRI scans for the head were for the sole indication of headache. From the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) wait times data, 73% of all CT and 93% of all MRI scans in the province, irrespective of indication were outpatient procedures.
The expenditure for each FY reflects the volume for that year and since volumes have increased in the past 6 FYs, the expenditure has also increased with a pay-out reaching 3.0M and 2.8M for CT and MRI services of the head respectively for the indication of headache and a pay-out reaching 1.8M and 0.9M for CT and MRI services of the head respectively for the indication of headache only in FY 08/09.
Cost per Abnormal Finding
The yield of abnormal finding for a CT and MRI scan of the head for the indication of headache only is 2% and 5% respectively. Based on these yield a high-level estimate of the cost per abnormal finding with neuroimaging of the head for headache only can be calculated for each FY. In FY 08/09 there were 37,434 CT and 16,197 MRI scans of the head for headache only. These volumes would generate a yield of abnormal finding of 749 and 910 with a CT scan and MRI scan respectively. The expenditure for FY 08/09 was 1.8M and 0.9M for CT and MRI services respectively. Therefore the cost per abnormal finding would be $2,409 for CT and $957 for MRI. These cost per abnormal finding estimates were limited because they did not factor in comparators or the consequences associated with an abnormal reading or FNs. The estimates only consider the cost of the neuroimaging procedure and the yield of abnormal finding with the respective procedure.
PMCID: PMC3377587  PMID: 23074404
11.  Systematic review of misdiagnosis of conversion symptoms and “hysteria” 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2005;331(7523):989.
Objective Paralysis, seizures, and sensory symptoms that are unexplained by organic disease are commonly referred to as “conversion” symptoms. Some patients who receive this diagnosis subsequently turn out to have a disease that explains their initial presentation. We aimed to determine how frequently this misdiagnosis occurs, and whether it has become less common since the widespread availability of brain imaging.
Design Systematic review.
Data sources Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, Cinahl databases, and searches of reference lists.
Review methods We included studies published since 1965 on the diagnostic outcome of adults with motor and sensory symptoms unexplained by disease. We critically appraised these papers, and carried out a multivariate, random effect, meta-analysis of the data.
Results Twenty seven studies including a total of 1466 patients and a median duration of follow-up of five years were eligible for inclusion. Early studies were of poor quality. There was a significant (P < 0.02) decline in the mean rate of misdiagnosis from the 1950s to the present day; 29% (95% confidence interval 23% to 36%) in the 1950s; 17% (12% to 24%) in the 1960s; 4% (2% to 7%) in the 1970s; 4% (2% to 6%) in the 1980s; and 4% (2% to 6%) in the 1990s. This decline was independent of age, sex, and duration of symptom in people included in the studies.
Conclusions A high rate of misdiagnosis of conversion symptoms was reported in early studies but this rate has been only 4% on average in studies of this diagnosis since 1970. This decline is probably due to improvements in study quality rather than improved diagnostic accuracy arising from the introduction of computed tomography of the brain.
PMCID: PMC1273448  PMID: 16223792
12.  A Bayesian account of ‘hysteria’ 
Brain  2012;135(11):3495-3512.
This article provides a neurobiological account of symptoms that have been called ‘hysterical’, ‘psychogenic’ or ‘medically unexplained’, which we will call functional motor and sensory symptoms. We use a neurobiologically informed model of hierarchical Bayesian inference in the brain to explain functional motor and sensory symptoms in terms of perception and action arising from inference based on prior beliefs and sensory information. This explanation exploits the key balance between prior beliefs and sensory evidence that is mediated by (body focused) attention, symptom expectations, physical and emotional experiences and beliefs about illness. Crucially, this furnishes an explanation at three different levels: (i) underlying neuromodulatory (synaptic) mechanisms; (ii) cognitive and experiential processes (attention and attribution of agency); and (iii) formal computations that underlie perceptual inference (representation of uncertainty or precision). Our explanation involves primary and secondary failures of inference; the primary failure is the (autonomous) emergence of a percept or belief that is held with undue certainty (precision) following top-down attentional modulation of synaptic gain. This belief can constitute a sensory percept (or its absence) or induce movement (or its absence). The secondary failure of inference is when the ensuing percept (and any somatosensory consequences) is falsely inferred to be a symptom to explain why its content was not predicted by the source of attentional modulation. This account accommodates several fundamental observations about functional motor and sensory symptoms, including: (i) their induction and maintenance by attention; (ii) their modification by expectation, prior experience and cultural beliefs and (iii) their involuntary and symptomatic nature.
PMCID: PMC3501967  PMID: 22641838
attention; sensorimotor information processing; cognitive neuroscience
13.  An Integrative Neurocircuit Perspective on Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures and Functional Movement Disorders: Neural Functional Unawareness 
Clinical EEG and neuroscience  2014;46(1):4-15.
Functional Neurological Disorder (conversion disorder) is a neurobehavioral condition frequently encountered by neurologists. Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizure (PNES) and Functional Movement Disorder (FMD) patients present to epileptologists and movement disorder specialists respectively, yet neurologists lack a neurobiological perspective through which to understand these enigmatic groups. Observational research studies suggest that PNES and FMD may represent variants of similar (or the same) conditions given that both groups exhibit a female predominance, have increased prevalence of mood-anxiety disorders, frequently endorse prior abuse, and share phenotypic characteristics. In this perspective article, neuroimaging studies in PNES and FMD are reviewed, and discussed using studies of emotional dysregulation, dissociation and psychological trauma in the context of motor control. Convergent neuroimaging findings implicate alterations in brain circuits mediating emotional expression, regulation and awareness (anterior cingulate and ventromedial prefrontal cortices, insula, amygdala, vermis), cognitive control and motor inhibition (dorsal anterior cingulate, dorsolateral prefrontal, inferior frontal cortices), self-referential processing and perceptual awareness (posterior parietal cortex, temporoparietal junction), and motor planning and coordination (supplementary motor area, cerebellum). Striatal-thalamic components of prefrontal-parietal networks may also play a role in pathophysiology. Aberrant medial prefrontal and amygdalar neuroplastic changes mediated by chronic stress may facilitate the development of functional neurological symptoms in a subset of patients. Improved biological understanding of PNES and FMD will likely reduce stigma and aid the identification of neuroimaging biomarkers guiding treatment development, selection and prognosis. Additional research should investigate neurocircuit abnormalities within and across functional neurological disorder subtypes, as well as compare PNES and FMD to mood-anxiety-dissociative disorders.
PMCID: PMC4363170  PMID: 25432161
psychogenic non-epileptic seizures; functional movement disorder; conversion disorder; dissociation; fMRI
14.  Why Reassurance Fails in Patients with Unexplained Symptoms—An Experimental Investigation of Remembered Probabilities 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(8):e269.
Providing reassurance is one of physicians' most frequently used verbal interventions. However, medical reassurance can fail or even have negative effects. This is frequently the case in patients with medically unexplained symptoms. It is hypothesized that these patients are more likely than patients from other groups to incorrectly recall the likelihoods of medical explanations provided by doctors.
Methods and Findings
Thirty-three patients with medically unexplained symptoms, 22 patients with major depression, and 30 healthy controls listened to an audiotaped medical report, as well as to two control reports. After listening to the reports, participants were asked to rate what the doctor thinks the likelihood is that the complaints are caused by a specific medical condition.
Although the doctor rejected most of the medical explanations for the symptoms in his verbal report, the patients with medically unexplained complaints remembered a higher likelihood for medical explanations for their symptoms. No differences were found between patients in the other groups, and for the control conditions. When asked to imagine that the reports were applicable to themselves, patients with multiple medical complaints reported more concerns about their health state than individuals in the other groups.
Physicians should be aware that patients with medically unexplained symptoms recall the likelihood of medical causes for their complaints incorrectly. Therefore, physicians should verify correct understanding by using check-back questions and asking for summaries, to improve the effect of reassurance.
Those patients for whom there is no medical explanation for their symptoms are likely to have more difficulty than other patients in remembering information intended to reassure them about their condition.
Editors' Summary
Being told by the doctor that that niggling headache or persistent stomach ache is not caused by a medical condition reassures most patients. But for some—those with a history of medically unexplained complaints—being told that tests have revealed no underlying cause for their symptoms provides little or no reassurance. Such patients have what is sometimes called “somatization syndrome.” In somatization, mental factors such as stress manifest themselves as physical symptoms. Patients with somatization syndrome start to report multiple medically unexplained symptoms as young adults. These symptoms, which change over time, include pain at different sites in the body and digestive, reproductive, and nervous system problems. What causes this syndrome is unknown and there is no treatment other than helping patients to control their symptoms.
Why Was This Study Done?
Patients with medically unexplained complaints make up a substantial and expensive part of the workload of general medical staff. Part of this expense is because patients with somatization syndrome are not reassured by their medical practitioners telling them there is no physical cause for their symptoms, which leads to requests for further tests. It is unclear why medical reassurance fails in these patients, but if this puzzle could be solved, it might help doctors to deal better with them. In this study, the researchers tested the idea that these patients do not accept medical reassurance because they incorrectly remember what their doctors have told them about the likelihood that specific medical conditions could explain their symptoms.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited patients with medically unexplained symptoms and, for comparison, patients with depression and healthy individuals. All the participants were assessed for somatization syndrome and their general memory tested. They then listened to three audiotapes. In one, a doctor gave test results to a patient with abdominal pain (a medical situation). The other two tapes dealt with a social situation (the lack of an invitation to a barbecue) and a neutral situation (a car breakdown). Each tape contained ten messages, including four that addressed possible explanations for the problem. Two were unambiguous and negative—for example, “the reason for your complaints is definitely not stomach flu.” Two were ambiguous but highly unlikely—“we don't think that you have bowel cancer; this is very unlikely.” The researchers then assessed how well the participants remembered the likelihood that any given explanation was responsible for the patient's symptoms, the missing invitation, or the broken-down car. The patients with somatization syndrome overestimated the likelihood of medical causes for symptoms, particularly (and somewhat surprisingly) when the doctor's assessment had been unambiguous. By contrast, the other participants correctly remembered the doctor's estimates as low. The three study groups were similar in their recall of the likelihood estimates from the social or neutral situation. Finally, when asked to imagine that the medical situation was personally applicable, the patients with unexplained symptoms reacted more emotionally than the other study participants by reporting more concerns with their health.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results support the researchers' hypothesis that people with somatization syndrome remember the chance that a given symptom has a specific medical cause incorrectly. This is not because of a general memory deficit or an inability to commit health-related facts to memory. The results also indicate that these patients react emotionally to medical situations, so they may find it hard to cope when a doctor fails to explain all their symptoms. Some of these characteristics could, of course, reflect the patients' previous experiences with medical professionals, and the experiment will need to be repeated with additional taped situations and more patients before firm recommendations can be made to help people with somatization syndrome. Nevertheless, given that medical reassurance and the presentation of negative results led to overestimates of the likelihood of medical explanations for symptoms in patients with somatization syndrome, the researchers recommend that doctors bear this bias in mind. To reduce it, they suggest, doctors could ask patients for summaries about what they have been told. This would make it possible to detect when patients have misremembered the likelihood of various medical explanations, and provide an opportunity to correct the situation.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
• MedlinePlus encyclopedia entry on somatization disorder
• Wikipedia page on somatization disorder (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
• Prodigy Knowledge's information for patients on somatization and somatoform disorders
PMCID: PMC1523375  PMID: 16866576
15.  Investigating “mass hysteria” in early postcolonial Uganda: Benjamin H. Kagwa, East African psychiatry, and the Gisu 
In the early 1960s, medical officers and administrators began to receive reports of what was being described as “mass madness” and “mass hysteria” in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) and Uganda. Each epidemic reportedly affected between 300 and 600 people and, coming in the wake of independence from colonial rule, caused considerable concern. One of the practitioners sent to investigate was Benjamin H. Kagwa, a Ugandan-born psychiatrist whose report represents the first investigation by an African psychiatrist in East Africa. This article uses Kagwa’s investigation to explore some of the difficulties facing East Africa’s first generation of psychiatrists as they took over responsibility for psychiatry. During this period, psychiatrists worked in an intellectual climate that was both attempting to deal with the legacy of colonial racism, and which placed faith in African psychiatrists to reveal more culturally sensitive insights into African psychopathology. The epidemics were the first major challenge for psychiatrists such as Kagwa precisely because they appeared to confirm what colonial psychiatrists had been warning for years—that westernization would eventually result in mass mental instability. As this article argues, however, Kagwa was never fully able to free himself from the practices and assumptions that had pervaded his discipline under colonial rule. His analysis of the epidemics as a “mental conflict” fit into a much longer tradition of psychiatry in East Africa, and stood starkly against the explanations of the local community.
PMCID: PMC4988490  PMID: 24191308
Uganda; Hysteria; Psychiatry; Traditional Medicine; Africanization; Epidemics
16.  Loss of Innocence: Albert Moll, Sigmund Freud and the Invention of Childhood Sexuality Around 1900 
Medical History  2012;56(2):156-183.
This paper analyses how, prior to the work of Sigmund Freud, an understanding of infant and childhood sexuality emerged during the nineteenth century. Key contributors to the debate were Albert Moll, Max Dessoir and others, as fin-de-siècle artists and writers celebrated a sexualised image of the child. By the beginning of the twentieth century, most paediatricians, sexologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts and pedagogues agreed that sexuality formed part of a child’s ‘normal’ development. This paper argues that the main disagreements in discourses about childhood sexuality related to different interpretations of children’s sexual experiences. On the one hand stood an explanation that argued for a homology between children’s and adults’ sexual experiences, on the other hand was an understanding that suggested that adults and children had distinct and different experiences. Whereas the homological interpretation was favoured by the majority of commentators, including Moll, Freud, and to some extent also by C.G. Jung, the heterological interpretation was supported by a minority, including childhood psychologist Charlotte Bühler.
PMCID: PMC3381499  PMID: 23002291
Childhood Sexuality; Child–Woman; Psychology; Psychoanalysis; Sexology; Charlotte Bühler; Max Dessoir; Havelock Ellis; Wilhelm Fließ; Sigmund Freud; Carl Gustav Jung; Karl Kraus; Sámuel Lindner; Albert Moll; Egon Schiele; Wilhelm Stekel; William Stern; Fritz Wittels
17.  Why Bother About Clumsiness? The Implications of Having Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) 
Neural Plasticity  2003;10(1-2):59-68.
Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is a common motor problem affecting—even in rather severe form—several percent of school age children. In the past, DCD has usually been called ‘clumsy child syndrome’ or ‘non-cerebralpalsy motor-perception dysfunction’. This disorder is more common in boys than in girls and is very often associated with psychopathology, particularly with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders/ autistic-type problems. Conversely, children with ADHD and autism spectrum problems, particularly those given a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome, have a very high rate of comorbid DCD. Psychiatrists appear to be unaware of this type of comorbidity in their young patients. Neurologists, on the other hand, usually pay little attention to the striking behavioral and emotional problems shown by so many of their ‘clumsy’ patients. A need exists for a much clearer focus on DCD—in child psychiatry and in child neurology—both in research and in clinical practice.
PMCID: PMC2565425  PMID: 14640308
18.  Historical perspective of Indian neurology 
To chronicle the history of medicine and neurology in India with a focus on its establishment and evolution.
The history of neurology in India is divided into two periods: ancient and modern. The ancient period dates back to the mid-second millennium Before Christ (B.C.) during the creation of the Ayurvedic Indian system of Medicine, which detailed descriptions of neurological disorders called Vata Vyadhi. The early 20th century witnessed the birth of modern Indian medicine with the onset of formal physician training at the nation's first allopathic medical colleges located in Madras (1835), Calcutta (1835) and Mumbai (1848). Prior to India's independence from Britain in 1947, only 25 medical schools existed in the entire country. Today, there are over 355. In 1951, physicians across the field of neurology and neurosurgery united to create the Neurological Society of India (NSI). Four decades later in 1991, neurologists branched out to establish a separate organization called the Indian Academy of Neurology (IAN).
Information was gathered through literature review using PubMed, MD Consult, OVID, primary texts and research at various academic institutions in India.
Neurological disorders were first described in ancient India under Ayurveda. The transition to modern medicine occurred more recently through formal training at medical schools beginning in the 1930's. Early pioneers and founders of the NSI (1951) include Dr. Jacob Chandy, Dr. B Ramamurthi, Dr. S. T. Narasimhan and Dr. Baldev Singh. Later, Dr. J. S. Chopra, a prominent neurologist and visionary, recognized the need for primary centers of collaboration and subsequently established the IAN (1991). The future of Neurology in India is growing rapidly. Currently, there are 1100 practicing neurologists and more than 150 post-graduate trainees who join the ranks every year. As the number of neurologists rises across India, there is an increase in the amount of basic, clinical and epidemiological research being conducted across the country every day.
The history of neurology in India roots back to its rich culture and tradition. Over time, there has been great structural and organizational evolution and the future of neurology in India appears to be bright. However, the number of neurologists and research in neurology needs to experience a significant growth in the future to ensure the best patient care.
PMCID: PMC3841583  PMID: 24339562
Ayurveda; dementia; Epilepsy; history; stroke
California Medicine  1950;72(3):164-166.
The reorganization of the medical department of the Veterans Administration has given considerable impetus to neurology, a part of the division of psychiatry and neurology. The neurologic service of the V. A. is the largest in the world today, and is constantly increasing. This service is made available to veterans through hospitals and regional offices within the designated area, which are branch administrative offices under the central office.
A residency training program for specialization is under the direction of a deans' committee in every large medical center. This committee, which is formed from the faculties of medical schools, also approves the visiting medical staffs of hospitals. The neurologic program consists of a number of special activities, which include residency training for certification, neurologic diagnosis, rehabilitation of patients with chronic illness, electroencephalography, epilepsy, aphasia and research. The paraplegia program is now a separate service, but is also participated in by the neurologist. Both the neurologist and the psychiatrist are interested in the patient with organic psychosis, and the neurologist also works in close relationship with the neurosurgeon.
There is need for neurologists in the V. A., which offers attractive opportunities in clinical practice and in research, as well as inducements of advancement and adequate financial returns.
PMCID: PMC1520340  PMID: 15405029
20.  Use of genetic tests among neurologists and psychiatrists: Knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and needs for training 
Journal of genetic counseling  2013;23(2):156-163.
This study explores neurologists’ and psychiatrists’ knowledge, attitudes, and practices concerning genetic tests. Psychiatrists (n=5,316) and neurologists (n=2,167) on the American Medical Association master list who had agreed to receive surveys were sent an email link to a survey about their attitudes and practices regarding genetic testing; 372 psychiatrists and 163 neurologists responded. A higher proportion of neurologists (74%) than psychiatrists (14%) who responded to the survey had ordered genetic testing in the past 6 months. Overall, most respondents thought that genetic tests should be performed more frequently, but almost half believed genetic tests could harm patients psychologically and considered legal protections inadequate. Almost half of neurologists (49%) and over 75% of psychiatrists did not have a genetics professional to whom to refer patients; those who had ordered genetic tests were more likely than those who did not do so to have access to a genetic counselor. Of respondents, 10% had received patient requests not to document genetic information and 15% had received inquiries about direct-to-consumer genetic testing. Neurologists reported themselves to be relatively more experienced and knowledgeable about genetics than psychiatrists. These data, the first to examine several important issues concerning knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of neurologists and psychiatrists regarding genetic tests, have important implications for future practice, research, and education.
PMCID: PMC3812264  PMID: 23793969
decision making; insurance; discrimination; ethics; medical education; genetic testing; genetic counseling
21.  Factors Associated with Neurologists' Provision of MS Patient Care 
Neurologists are central to providing quality care for individuals with MS. However, neurologist shortages may restrict access to care for MS patients. To examine factors influencing neurologists' provision of MS care, we surveyed 1,700 US neurologists to assess demographic/practice characteristics, training, and attitudes toward MS care. The study population consisted of 573 respondents: 87 (15.2%) MS subspecialists and 486 (84.8%) “other neurologists,” including subspecialists in other neurology areas (i.e., non-MS) and general neurologists. MS subspecialists indicating they “enjoy interacting with MS patients” had a significantly greater rate of MS patients seen per week. In separate analyses of the “other neurologists” group, the rate of MS patients seen was lower among neurologists in university-based groups or those practicing in major cities; female neurologists; and neurologists who indicated lack of sufficient knowledge regarding MS patient care. Rates of MS patients seen were significantly greater for other neurologists who agreed that MS care involved “ability to improve patient outcomes and quality of life”; “dynamic area with evolving treatment options”; and “enjoy interacting with MS patients.” Understanding factors influencing MS patient care by neurologists and developing policies for appropriate access to care is critical for optimal outcomes among this population.
PMCID: PMC4020205  PMID: 24949203
22.  Supply and demand analysis of the current and future US neurology workforce 
Neurology  2013;81(5):470-478.
This study estimates current and projects future neurologist supply and demand under alternative scenarios nationally and by state from 2012 through 2025.
A microsimulation supply model simulates likely career choices of individual neurologists, taking into account the number of new neurologists trained each year and changing demographics of the neurology workforce. A microsimulation demand model simulates utilization of neurology services for each individual in a representative sample of the population in each state and for the United States as a whole. Demand projections reflect increased prevalence of neurologic conditions associated with population growth and aging, and expanded coverage under health care reform.
The estimated active supply of 16,366 neurologists in 2012 is projected to increase to 18,060 by 2025. Long wait times for patients to see a neurologist, difficulty hiring new neurologists, and large numbers of neurologists who do not accept new Medicaid patients are consistent with a current national shortfall of neurologists. Demand for neurologists is projected to increase from ∼18,180 in 2012 (11% shortfall) to 21,440 by 2025 (19% shortfall). This includes an increased demand of 520 full-time equivalent neurologists starting in 2014 from expanded medical insurance coverage associated with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
In the absence of efforts to increase the number of neurology professionals and retain the existing workforce, current national and geographic shortfalls of neurologists are likely to worsen, exacerbating long wait times and reducing access to care for Medicaid beneficiaries. Current geographic differences in adequacy of supply likely will persist into the future.
PMCID: PMC3776531  PMID: 23596071
23.  Assessing clinicopathological correlation in chronic traumatic encephalopathy: rationale and methods for the UNITE study 
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive neurodegeneration associated with repetitive head impacts. Understanding Neurologic Injury and Traumatic Encephalopathy (UNITE) is a U01 project recently funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. The goal of the UNITE project is to examine the neuropathology and clinical presentation of brain donors designated as “at risk” for the development of CTE based on prior athletic or military exposure. Here, we present the rationale and methodology for UNITE.
Over the course of 4 years, we will analyze the brains and spinal cords of 300 deceased subjects who had a history of repetitive head impacts sustained during participation in contact sports at the professional or collegiate level or during military service. Clinical data are collected through medical record review and retrospective structured and unstructured family interviews conducted by a behavioral neurologist or neuropsychologist. Blinded to the clinical data, a neuropathologist conducts a comprehensive assessment for neurodegenerative disease, including CTE, using published criteria. At a clinicopathological conference, a panel of physicians and neuropsychologists, blinded to the neuropathological data, reaches a clinical consensus diagnosis using published criteria, including proposed clinical research criteria for CTE.
We will investigate the validity of these clinical criteria and sources of error by using recently validated neuropathological criteria as a gold standard for CTE diagnosis. We also will use statistical modeling to identify diagnostic features that best predict CTE pathology.
The UNITE study is a novel and methodologically rigorous means of assessing clinicopathological correlation in CTE. Our findings will be critical for developing future iterations of CTE clinical diagnostic criteria.
PMCID: PMC4601147  PMID: 26455775
24.  Emerging Subspecialties in Neurology: Neuropalliative care 
Neurology  2014;82(21):e180-e182.
Palliative medicine, as defined by World Health Organization, is the specialty that recognizes and attempts to prevent or alleviate physical, social, psychological, and spiritual suffering.1 Understanding the principles of palliative care should be an essential component of neurologic training, as the trajectory of many neurologic illnesses is progressive and incurable.2 Given the delicate nature of many of the conversations that neurologists have with patients at the time of diagnosis or during acute illness and hospitalization, expertise in discussing a patient's wishes, handling difficult conversations, and providing adequate symptom-based management is critical. Neurologists are often viewed as consulting physicians; however, patients living with chronic neurologic diseases such as multiple sclerosis, dementia, Parkinson disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or sequelae of stroke often consider their neurologist as one of their primary physicians. Therefore, neurologists are positioned in both the outpatient and inpatient care settings not only to address symptoms referable to the disease but also to improve overall quality of life for patients and caregivers and to facilitate end-of-life care.
PMCID: PMC4105252  PMID: 24862899
25.  A prospective evaluation of indications for neurological consultation in the emergency department 
Recognizing the diverse presentation of neurological conditions that emergency physicians encounter can be challenging, and management of these patients often requires consultation with a neurologist. Accurate diagnosis is critical in neurological emergencies because patient outcomes are often dependent on timely treatment. Our primary objective was to ascertain whether consultant neurologists understood the reason for consultation in the emergency department.
The authors conducted a prospective study of a non-consecutive sample of 94 patients seen in an academic tertiary care emergency department (ED) who underwent consultation by neurologist over 4 consecutive months. At the time a consult was requested, we independently surveyed the treating ED physician for their differential diagnosis. Neurologists were also queried as to whether there was a clear indication for consultation. We then followed the patients to determine their final diagnosis and outcome.
The median age was 57 years (interquartile range 45–78). 45.7 % were male. The clinical reasons for all the consults were 61 % focal symptom, 12 % concern about a specific diagnosis, 9 % radiological finding, 9 % diagnostic ambiguity, and 11 % other. There was no significant difference in the rate of a final neurological diagnosis based on the clinical reason for consult (p = 0.13). In the 17 % of patients for whom the treating neurologist reported a lack of a clear indication for the consultation, 25 % were later admitted to a neurological service, and 69 % ultimately had a neurological diagnosis.
Although patients with neurological emergencies can have diverse presentations, emergency physicians appear to utilize neurologic consultation appropriately. Additionally, nearly 70 % of patients for whom the consultant did not precisely understand the need for the consultation had neurological diagnoses. Time and resource constraints in the ED create challenges in making correct diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC4514733  PMID: 26223983
Neurological emergency; Consultation; Discordant diagnosis; Stroke

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