Medically unexplained symptoms: perceptions of physicians in primary health care

Fam Pract. 2004 Apr;21(2):199-203. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmh217.


Background: Patients presenting with multiple symptoms represent a substantial part of a GP's total work load. At the same time, these patients account for the majority of the people on long-term sick-leave in Sweden today.

Objective: The aim of this study was to explore GPs' perceptions and ways of managing patients with medically unexplained symptoms (MUS).

Methods: Five focus group discussions were conducted with a total of 27 GPs. In the collection and analysis of data, a phenomenographic approach was used.

Results: The GPs described how they used four different approaches to manage patients with MUS: a biomedical, a psychological, an educational and a psychosocial approach. Different approaches were used, depending on the patient and the situation, and the GPs even switched approach when working with the same patient.

Conclusions: In their work with patients with MUS, GPs need support and further training to improve the way the biomedical frame of reference is integrated with the humanistic perspective.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Counseling / methods
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • Social Support
  • Somatoform Disorders / therapy*
  • Sweden