Cases That Test Your Skills

When the worry is worse than the actual illness

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EVALUATION Collateral information

After Ms. S’s mother signs consent forms for exchange of information, the treatment team reaches out to the other clinicians. The therapist confirms that Ms. S’s mother had ended her daughter’s treatment after she was unable to quickly obtain documentation to rule out anorexia nervosa.

Both the pediatric surgeon and gastroenterologist report concerns of FDIA, which is why both clinicians had referred Ms. S and her mother to psychiatry. The pediatric surgeon states that on one occasion when he interviewed Ms. S separately from her mother, she seemed to be going down a checklist of symptoms. The surgeon reports that there was a partial occlusion of the superior mesenteric artery, confirming the diagnosis of SMAS, but he believed it was not severe enough to explain the symptoms Ms. S reported. The surgeon had scheduled another imaging appointment for 1 month later.

The pediatric gastroenterologist reports that Ms. S’s mother had demanded surgery and nasogastric tube placement for her daughter, which raised suspicion of FDIA. The gastroenterologist had convinced Ms. S and her mother to start low-dose doxepin, 20 mg twice a day, for anxiety, sleep, and abdominal pain.

Lastly, the pediatrician reports that she had not seen Ms. S for several months but stated that Ms. S always has been in the low normal BMI range. The pediatrician also reports that 6 months ago, the patient and her mother were frantically visiting EDs and scheduling doctor’s appointments.

The authors’ observations

The treatment team decided that Ms. S was not in imminent danger, and felt it was important to keep her in treatment without raising her mother’s suspicion. The team agreed to raise these concerns to the police, child protective services, and risk management if Ms. S’s health suddenly deteriorated or if her mother decided to remove Ms. S from our care.

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