Munchausen's syndrome in neurosurgery: report of two cases and review of the literature.
OBJECTIVE AND IMPORTANCE: Munchausen's syndrome is a rare psychiatric condition, in which patients seek medical treatment for factitious or self-induced medical problems. Reports in the literature of postoperative Munchausen's syndrome are extremely rare. The major obstacle to improving management of the patients with Munchausen's syndrome is increasing physicians' awareness and recognition of the disease. Although Munchausen's syndrome is rare, physicians probably will encounter at least one such patient at some point during their career and therefore should be aware of this disorder. CLINICAL PRESENTATION: We report two documented cases of postoperative Munchausen's syndrome in patients who underwent cranial neurosurgery. Both patients received complex flaps for closure of their cranial defects. Both patients later admitted to deliberately reopening their cranial wounds because of a psychological desire to continue their illness. INTERVENTION: The primary therapeutic objective is to achieve wound healing and stop the cycle of surgical procedures. Immediate confrontation with the patient often does more harm than good. Instead, psychiatric consultation, with the potential for nonsurgical management and behavior modification, should be obtained. CONCLUSION: Munchausen's syndrome is a rare psychiatric diagnosis, especially in the postoperative patient. The common clues to diagnosis are: 1) a nonhealing wound in the absence of risk factors for wound failure, 2) a history of psychiatric illness, 3) repeated bleeding from the wound site, and 4) a desire to continue the sick role. Early detection will allow proper psychiatric referral to prevent injuries to the patient, abuses to the medical system, and unnecessary operations.
Lad, SP; Jobe, KW; Polley, J; Byrne, RW
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