OBJECTIVE: To describe general practitioners' (GPs') evaluation of and management strategies in relation to patients who seek medical advice because of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). DESIGN: A nationwide cross-sectional postal questionnaire survey. The survey included a sample of 1000 Danish GPs randomly drawn from the membership list of GPs in the Danish Medical Association. SETTING: Denmark. RESULTS: Completed questionnaires were obtained from 691 GPs (69%). Within the last 12 months 62.4% (n = 431) of the GPs had been consulted by at least one patient with MCS. Of these, 55.2% of the GPs evaluated the patients' complaints as chronic and 46.2% stated that they were rarely able to meet the patients' expectations for healthcare. The majority, 73.5%, had referred patients to other medical specialties. The cause of MCS was perceived as multi-factorial by 64.3% of the GPs, as somatic/biologic by 27.6%, and as psychological by 7.2%. Partial or complete avoidance of chemical exposures was recommended by 86.3%. Clinical guidelines, diagnostic tools, or more insight in the pathophysiology were requested by 84.5% of the GPs. CONCLUSION: Despite the lack of formal diagnostic labelling the patient with MCS is well known by GPs. The majority of the GPs believed that MCS primarily has a multi-factorial explanation. However, perceptions of the course of the condition and management strategies differed, and many GPs found it difficult to meet the patients' expectations for healthcare. The majority of the GPs requested more knowledge and clinical guidelines for the management of this group of patients.
Keywords: Adult; Attitude of Health Personnel; Chronic Disease; Cross-Sectional Studies; Female; Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice; Humans; Male; Multiple Chemical Sensitivity; Physician's Practice Patterns; Physicians, Family; Practice Guidelines as Topic; Questionnaires; Self Concept