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South Med J. 1982 Aug;75(8):941-4.

Medical illness in psychiatric patients: barriers to diagnosis and treatment.


We report a study of 102 consecutive admissions to the acute medical care unit of a large psychiatric hospital. The study was designed to investigate the epidemiology and the barriers to diagnosis and treatment of medical illness among female psychiatric inpatients. The majority of the patients were transferred to the unit because of nonspecific changes in physical condition or for behavioral differences. More than 70% of the patients were unable to communicate adequately with the physician. Ninety-two percent of the sample were found to have at least one with an average of three previously undiagnosed physical diseases not predicted by their symptoms on referral. We advocate a high index of suspicion of physical disease in the psychiatric population, and recommend an aggressive multidisciplinary diagnostic and therapeutic approach.

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