Table of Contents
ISRN Family Medicine
Volume 2013, Article ID 541604, 7 pages
Research Article

The General Practitioner’s Consultation Approaches to Medically Unexplained Symptoms: A Qualitative Study

1Research Unit for General Practice, Aarhus University, Vennelyst Boulevard 6, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
2Research Clinic for Functional Disorders, Aarhus University Hospital, Nørrebrogade 44, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
3Research Unit for General Practice, Department of Community Medicine, University of Tromsø, 9037 Tromsø, Norway

Received 9 August 2012; Accepted 2 September 2012

Academic Editors: M. Menchetti, A. O Brien, N. H. Rasmussen, R. Ruiz-Moral, and N. D. Sulaiman

Copyright © 2013 Henriette Schou Hansen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Background. The prevalence of medically unexplained symptoms (MUSs) in primary care is about 10–15%. The definition of MUS is descriptive and there are no specific diagnostic criteria for MUS in primary care. Furthermore, a general practitioner’s (GP’s) categorisation of patients with MUS shows large variation. The aim of the present study is to investigate how GPs employ the definition of MUS and how they manage patients with MUS in daily practice. Methods. With a grounded theory approach five focus group interviews with GPs were performed. The interviews addressed how GPs managed MUS and their reflections on the course and prognosis for MUS patients. Results. Consultations about MUS develop around the individual patient and usually include several appointments. We identified three different types of consultations: (1) “searching for a disease,” (2) “going by the routine,” and (3) “following various paths.” These types of consultations spanned from a biomedical approach to an approach where multiple explanations were offered to explain the patient’s problem. The choice of consultation types was influenced by the GP, the patient and contextual factors which, in turn, affected the diagnostic process. Conclusions. A diagnosis of MUS is contextually embedded and the diagnostic process is shaped by the consultation.