Psychological assessment and treatment of somatization: adolescents with medically unexplained neurologic symptoms.Adolesc Med. 2002 Oct; 13(3):625-41.AM
Adolescent patients who report physical symptoms that are unexplained by physical disease or pathophysiologic processes are prevalent in health care settings. Physical symptoms with no notable physical pathology are often referred to as medically unexplained symptoms (MUS). Common MUS found in adolescent populations include headaches, abdominal pain, back pain, fatigue, dizziness, numbness and tingling sensations in the limbs, and gastrointestinal symptoms. The most important diagnostic concern is the exclusion of neurologic and other general medical conditions. Failure to diagnose real physical pathology appropriately can have serious, deleterious consequences. However, it is also important for physicians to address psychological and other psychosocial factors that may play a role in the etiology or maintenance of MUS. The onus often falls on the primary care physician to screen for such problems and to make cost-effective and appropriate referrals. This article reviews some alternative treatment guidelines for physicians to assist in the assessment, intervention, and referral process for adolescent patients with MUS. The advantages of integrating psychological screening practices into the evaluation process and present recommendations regarding the management of such patients are discussed.