The Inpatient Assessment and Management of Motor Functional Neurological Disorders: An Interdisciplinary Perspective

Psychosomatics. 2018 Jul-Aug;59(4):358-368. doi: 10.1016/j.psym.2017.12.006. Epub 2018 Jan 8.


Background: Motor functional neurologic disorders (FND)-previously termed "hysteria" and later "conversion disorder"-are exceedingly common and frequently encountered in the acute hospital setting. Despite their high prevalence, patients with motor FND can be challenging to diagnose accurately and manage effectively. To date, there is limited guidance on the inpatient approach to the neuropsychiatric evaluation of patients with functional (psychogenic) neurologic symptoms.

Objective: The authors outline an inpatient multidisciplinary approach, involving neurology, psychiatry, and physical therapy, for the assessment and acute inpatient management of motor FND.

Methods: A vignette of a patient with motor FND is presented followed by a discussion of general assessment principles. Thereafter, a detailed description of the neurologic and psychiatric assessments is outlined. Delivery of a "rule-in" diagnosis is emphasized and specific guidance for what can be accomplished postdiagnosis in the hospital is suggested.

Discussion: We encourage an interdisciplinary approach beginning at the early stages of the diagnostic assessment once an individual is suspected of having motor FND.

Conclusions: Practical suggestions for the inpatient assessment of motor FND are presented. It is also important to individualize the diagnostic assessment. Future research should be conducted to test best practices for motor FND management in the acute inpatient hospital setting.

Keywords: Conversion disorder; Functional movement disorders; Neuropsychiatry; Psychogenic nonepileptic seizures; Somatization.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Conversion Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Conversion Disorder / psychology*
  • Conversion Disorder / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inpatients*
  • Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Nervous System Diseases / psychology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / therapy