Presentation of the Multidisciplinary Guideline Medically Unexplained Physical Symptoms (MUPS) and Somatoform Disorder in the Netherlands: disease management according to risk profiles

J Psychosom Res. 2012 Feb;72(2):168-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2011.11.007. Epub 2011 Dec 9.


Objective: January 2011, the Dutch Multidisciplinary Guideline for Medically Unexplained Symptoms (MUPS) and Somatoform Disorder (SD) was published. The aim was to set a standard for multidisciplinary prevention, diagnosis and treatment of MUPS and SD.

Methods: First, the Multidisciplinary Guideline group defined a conceptual approach for the guideline. After this, a systematic literature review, followed by consensus meetings in the Multidisciplinary working group, aimed to answer the following questions: 1) What evidence exists for preventive interventions, including the patient-doctor communication in MUPS and SD? 2) How can the diagnosis of MUPS be established? 3) What effective treatments of MUPS are available? 4) Which types of treatment are most effective for which patients?

Results: As conceptual approach for the guideline, based on existing literature, in this guideline MUPS are considered a category of symptoms that have many common aspects and are best approached by one, generic approach. 1) Research for preventive interventions and the patient-doctor relationship in MUPS and SD is scanty. 2) To establish the diagnosis of MUPS or SD, the GP should follow a parallel somatic-psychosocial diagnostic step plan. 3) A Systematic Review identified Cognitive Behavioral Treatment (CBT), treatment of comorbid depressive and anxiety disorder, psychiatric consultation with a Consultation Letter to General Practitioners (GPs) and stepped care as evidence based interventions for MUPS and SD. 4) In order to apply the best fitting treatment to patients, patient risk profiles were formulated to guide stepped-care treatment that should start at an appropriate level and treatment setting. Three levels are discerned: Low risk patients need reassurement by the GP. Moderate risk patients suffer from comorbidity. They need case-management and generally can be treated by the GP as well, who can be supported by psychiatric consultation. High risk patients often have long term SD and a perturbed patient-doctor relationship with their GP. For this group, specialist mental health treatment is needed.

Conclusion: Disease-managament based on risk profiles, providing stepped care and case management by the GP, supported by psychiatric consultation with a consultation letter, and mental health in-patient multidisciplinary treatment for severe cases, is the recommended strategy of the Dutch Multidisciplinary Guideline for MUPS and SD.

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Family Practice / standards
  • Humans
  • Netherlands
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Risk
  • Somatoform Disorders / therapy*