Medically Unexplained Symptoms: Experiences of Paediatric Health Professionals
Medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) are physical symptoms that do not have an identifiable physical cause. Children and adolescents commonly present to health professionals with such symptoms, for example headache, tiredness and abdominal pain. Lack of identifiable physical cause may lead to the conclusion that symptoms are “all in the mind” or that a child is intentionally feigning their symptoms; however, it is thought that MUS represent a complex process that is multifactorial in nature, with links to psychological disorders such as anxiety, as well as broader issues such as family dysfunction. Managing MUS is ethically complex, raising concerns about over-investigation and over-treatment driven by parents, which may cause physical and psychosocial damage to the child. In some situations, consideration may be give to a Child Protection notification, when parents believe they are acting and advocating for their child’s best interests. Very little research has been done exploring Paediatricians’ perceptions of MUS. Most research appears to have focused on primary care (e.g. General Practitioners). Furthermore, very few studies have investigated the value paediatricians place on parental factors and how they perceive parental factors as influencing the medical management of children and adolescent with MUS.
This study aims to explore paediatricians’ experiences and perceptions of such situations. This will be done through individual interviews with a range of Consultant Paediatricians from two large Children’s Hospitals in Melbourne, Victoria
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