Medically unexplained symptoms in patients with PNES: Do they explain poor employment outcome in patients with good seizure outcomes?

Paul S McKenzie, Maria Oto, Christopher D Graham, Roderick Duncan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Many patients with psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) have other medically unexplained symptoms (MUS). In order to assess their long-term contribution to ill-health and unemployment, we recorded MUS, employment, healthcare utilization, and seizure outcomes in a cohort of patients with PNES.

METHODS: We had complete computerized healthcare records and employment information in 120 patients with PNES, 5-10years postdiagnosis. We analyzed these data to assess the contribution of MUS to ill-health and to determine whether MUS could explain differences among seizure, employment, and healthcare utilization outcomes in PNES.

RESULTS: At 5-10years, 41/120 patients (34.2%) were attending primary or secondary care for seizures, 42/120 patients (35.0%) had MUS other than PNES, and 36/120 patients (30.0%) were employed. Unemployment was predicted by age at presentation (OR: 0.90 (0.86-0.94), p<0.001), presenting to primary or secondary care with seizures (OR: 0.16 (0.05-0.52), p=0.003), and contact with psychiatric services at 5-10years (OR: 0.16 (0.05-0.58), p=0.005). No outcome measures were predicted by additional MUS, though MUS themselves were predicted by psychiatric contact (OR: 2.27 (1.01-5.01), p=0.048).

CONCLUSIONS: Our data suggest that MUS do not contribute independently to unemployment in the population with PNES, whereas psychiatric morbidity appears to do so. Nonetheless, MUS and psychiatric morbidity persist in the long term in a substantial minority of patients with PNES. We found no evidence that seizures in patients whose PNES have resolved are replaced with other MUS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-12
JournalEpilepsy & behavior : E&B
Early online date13 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Employment/statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medically Unexplained Symptoms
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Seizures/psychology
  • Somatoform Disorders/psychology
  • Treatment Outcome


Dive into the research topics of 'Medically unexplained symptoms in patients with PNES: Do they explain poor employment outcome in patients with good seizure outcomes?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this