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J Psychosom Res. 2004 Oct;57(4):379-89.

Multiple medically unexplained physical symptoms and health care utilization: outcome of psychological intervention and patient-related predictors of change.

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Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Roetersstraat 15, 1018 WB Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



To test the effect of psychological intervention on multiple medically unexplained physical symptoms, psychological symptoms, and health care utilization in addition to medical care as usual. To identify patient-related predictors of change in symptoms and care utilization.


In a randomized controlled trial, subjects were assigned to one of two conditions: psychological intervention by a qualified therapist plus care as usual by a general practitioner (GP) or care as usual only. Participants (N=98) were administered a standardized interview and several outcome measures at intake and after 6 months and 12 months after intake. GPs rated medically unexplained and explained symptoms and consultations over a period of 1 1/2 years.


ANOVAs for repeated measures showed that self-reported and GP-registered unexplained physical symptoms decreased from pretest to posttest to follow-up. Psychological symptoms and consultations decreased from pretest to posttest. GP-registered explained symptoms did not decrease. However, intervention and control groups did not differ in symptom reduction. Path analysis revealed two paths to a decrease in self-reported unexplained physical symptoms: from more negative affectivity via more psychological attribution and more pretreatment anxiety, and from more somatic attribution via more psychological attribution and more pretreatment anxiety.


Intervention and control groups did not differ in symptom reduction. Reduction of self-reported medically unexplained symptoms was well predicted by patient-related symptom perception variables, whereas the prediction of change in registered symptoms and consultations requires a different model.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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