Fewer patients were referred to psychiatrists for suspected bipolar disorder than the number of patients diagnosed with the illness, Canadian researchers reported in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Dr. Andrée Daigneault and her colleagues found that, over a 10-year period, the number of patients referred for suspicion of bipolar disorder (n = 583) was lower than the number of bipolar disorder diagnoses (n = 640).

To conduct the study, the investigators looked at records from Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal’s Module Evaluation/Liaison (MEL) division. The hospital’s psychiatrists examined 18,111 patients from 1998 to 2010 and carried out 10,492 (58%) assessments, reported Dr. Daigneault of the hospital and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Montreal, and her associates.

Of all patients assessed by the MEL, 583 patients were referred for a suspicion of bipolar disorder, while 640 patients received the diagnosis from a MEL psychiatrist (40.3% type I, 40.5% type II). The proportion of patients referred to the MEL for suspicion of bipolar disorder remained stable over the 10 years of the study and held between 2.2% and 4.6% annually. Both bipolar I and II disorders were more commonly diagnosed in secondary care than in primary, the authors noted. They also found no increase in the proportion of bipolar disorder referrals over the 10 years of the study.

“If the psychiatric and medical communities seem to become increasing familiar with [bipolar disorder], our study fails to demonstrate that [bipolar disorder] is overly suspected or identified in primary care,” the authors wrote. They said their data suggest that general practitioners “have not been influenced by the popularity of [bipolar disorder], as could have been suggested if rates of [bipolar] suspicions increased over time or surpassed that of [bipolar] diagnoses.”

Read the full article here: (J. Affect. Disord. 2015;174:225-32 [doi:10.1016/j.jad.2014.10.057]).



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