A comparison of emergency department presentations for medically unexplained symptoms in frequent attenders during COVID-19

Link to article at PubMed

Clin Med (Lond). 2021 May 20:clinmed.2020-1093. doi: 10.7861/clinmed.2020-1093. Online ahead of print.


Medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) are those with no identified organic aetiology. Our emergency department (ED) perceived an increase in MUS frequency during COVID-19. The primary aim was to compare MUS incidence in frequent attenders (FAs) during COVID-19 and a control period.A retrospective list of FA-MUS presenting to our ED from March to June 2019 (control) and March to June 2020 (during COVID-19) was compared. Fisher's exact test was used to compare binomial proportions; this presented as relative risk (RR) with 95% confidence intervals (95%CI).During COVID-19, ED attendances reduced by 32.7%, with a significant increase in the incidence of FA-MUS and FA-MUS ED visits compared to control; RR 1.5 (95%CI 1.1-1.8) p=0.0006, and RR 1.8 (95%CI 1.6-2.0), p<0.0001, respectively.Despite reduced ED attendances during COVID-19, there was a significant increase in the incidence of FA-MUS patients and corresponding ED visits by this cohort. This presents a challenge to ED clinicians who may feel underprepared to manage these patients effectively.

PMID:34016583 | DOI:10.7861/clinmed.2020-1093

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