BACKGROUND Previous work suggests neurological disease commonly supervenes in cases of conversion disorder but has not identified clear predisposing factors. Patients' subsequent use of services has been neglected.
METHOD Clinical outcomes for 73 patients investigated for pseudoneurological symptoms at a neurological hospital 10 years earlier were compared with findings on presentation. Fifty-six patients complied with a structured interview concerning use of services.
RESULTS Thirty patients had no relief from their original symptom at follow-up. They had been older, with more chronic symptoms, and different auxiliary psychiatric diagnoses. In 11 patients a clear neurological diagnosis was subsequently made for the original symptom. Provisional neurological diagnoses at presentation had been disproportionately common among these 11. Small numbers of patients with poor outcomes made most use of hospital and community services. High attenders met screening criteria for somatisation disorder at follow-up.
CONCLUSIONS The prognosis for chronic symptoms remains poor, but subsequent rediagnosis of neurological disease is less frequent than commonly supposed. Somatisation disorder may develop if hospital contact does not lead to diagnosis of another disease.