Research Article

Psychologically mediated abdominal pain in surgical and medical outpatients clinics.

Br Med J 1977; 1 doi: (Published 04 June 1977) Cite this as: Br Med J 1977;1:1451
  1. J Gomez,
  2. P Dally


    Ninety-six patients complaining of recurrent or persistent abdominal pain were referred consecutively to a surgical clinic and a medical clinic, respectively. They were examined psychiatrically after their initial physical investigation. The psychiatric examination included rating scales for depression and anxiety, a personality inventory, life-events schedule, scale of verbal expressivity, and family and personal patterns of pain and invalidism. Only 15 patients (15-6%) had organic disorders that could be responsible for their symptoms. In the remainder, psychiatric factors were considered primarily responsible for their abdominal pain: 31 were depressed; 21 had chronic tension; in 17 hysterical mechanisms were prominent; and 12 were found to be unrecognised alcoholics. Follow-up at three and six months and recognition by 80% of the psychogenic group that a psychological explanation was plausible, confirmed the diagnoses, and over half responded favourably to psychiatric management. Features distinguishing the organic and psychogenic groups were delineated. Psychiatric assessment has a place among the investigations of non-acute abdominal pain; certainly it should not be condisered simply as "a last resort."