Musculoskeletal complaints are common and often unexplained and often lead to rheumatology referrals. The prevalence of psychiatric disease in patients with musculoskeletal complaints is unknown.
To determine the prevalence of common psychiatric disorders among patients referred to a rheumatology clinic and the likelihood of establishing a rheumatic diagnosis if a psychiatric disorder is present.
Prospective diagnostic survey.
Two hospital-based rheumatology clinics and a general medicine clinic.
A consecutive sample of newly referred patients (n=185) and their rheumatologists (n = 9).
Before their visit, all patients filled out a self-administered version of PRIME-MD (Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders), a questionnaire that makes Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition: Primary Care Version, diagnoses of depressive, anxiety, and somatoform disorders. After the visit, the study rheumatologists, who were unaware of the PRIME-MD results, completed a questionnaire regarding their diagnostic assessment. These patients were compared with 210 patients with musculoskeletal complaints who were cared for in a general medicine clinic.
Main Outcome Measures
Psychiatric and rheumatic disorders.
Compared with patiens with musculoskeletal complaints in a general medicine clinic, patients referred to a rheumatology clinic had a higher prevalence of psychiatric disease (40% vs 29%; P=.008), had an almost 2-fold higher prevalence of anxiety disorders, and were more likely to have multiple psychiatric disorders (odds ratio=2.70, 95% confidence interval = 1.50-5.00). The likelihood of a psychiatric disorder differed among patients with connective tissue disease, nonsystemic articular or periarticular disorders, and nonarticular disorders (27%, 38%, 55%, respectively; P=.006). In a best-fitting logistic regression model, psychiatric disorders markedly decreased the likelihood of a connective tissue disease (odds ratio = 0.24, 95% confidence interval = 0.09-0.62).
Forty percent of patients referred to a rheumatology clinic in this study had a psychiatric disorder, and its presence predicted a lower likelihood of a connective tissue disease. Prospective studies are needed to determine if screening for psychiatric disease before referring patients with unexplained musculoskeletal complaints would reduce costs or improve recognition of potentially treatable psychiatric disorders.