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Open Access Research article

Survey of physician experiences and perceptions about the diagnosis and treatment of fibromyalgia

Serge Perrot1, Ernest Choy2, Danielle Petersel3*, Anna Ginovker4 and Erich Kramer4

Author Affiliations

1 Service de Médecine Interne et Centre de la Douleur, Hôtel-Dieu, Paris, France

2 Section of Rheumatology, Cardiff University School of Medicine, Tenovus Building, Heath Park, Cardiff, Wales, UK

3 Pfizer Inc, 235 East 42nd Street, New York, NY, 10017, USA

4 Harris Interactive, Independence Way, Princeton, NJ, USA

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BMC Health Services Research 2012, 12:356  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-356

Published: 10 October 2012

Abstract

Background

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a condition characterized by widespread pain and is estimated to affect 0.5-5% of the general population. Historically, it has been classified as a rheumatologic disorder, but patients consult physicians from a variety of specialties in seeking diagnosis and ultimately treatment. Patients report considerable delay in receiving a diagnosis after initial presentation, suggesting diagnosis and management of FM might be a challenge to physicians.

Methods

A questionnaire survey of 1622 physicians in six European countries, Mexico and South Korea was conducted. Specialties surveyed included primary care physicians (PCPs; n=809) and equal numbers of rheumatologists, neurologists, psychiatrists and pain specialists.

Results

The sample included experienced doctors, with an expected clinical caseload for their specialty. Most (>80%) had seen a patient with FM in the last 2 years. Overall, 53% of physicians reported difficulty with diagnosing FM, 54% reported their training in FM was inadequate, and 32% considered themselves not knowledgeable about FM. Awareness of American College of Rheumatology classification criteria ranged from 32% for psychiatrists to 83% for rheumatologists. Sixty-four percent agreed patients found it difficult to communicate FM symptoms, and 79% said they needed to spend more time to identify FM. Thirty-eight percent were not confident in recognizing the symptoms of FM, and 48% were not confident in differentiating FM from conditions with similar symptoms. Thirty-seven percent were not confident developing an FM treatment plan, and 37% were not confident managing FM patients long-term. In general, rheumatologists reported least difficulties/greatest confidence, and PCPs and psychiatrists reported greatest difficulties/least confidence.

Conclusions

Diagnosis and managing FM is challenging for physicians, especially PCPs and psychiatrists, but other specialties, including rheumatologists, also express difficulties. Improved training in FM and initiatives to improve patient-doctor communication are needed and may help the management of this condition.