Satisfaction With Specific and Nonspecific Diagnoses

Published:November 27, 2018DOI:


      Nonspecific upper extremity illnesses (eg,. wrist pain, forearm pain)—where no objectively verifiable pathology is detectable—are common and usually self-limiting. For some patients, a nonspecific diagnosis can contribute to mistrust and disappointment.


      This study tested the primary null hypothesis that there is no difference in mean overall satisfaction between patients given a specific compared with a nonspecific diagnosis. Second, we assessed factors associated with satisfaction and with nonspecific upper extremity diagnosis.


      There was no significant difference between mean satisfaction with nonspecific and specific diagnoses in bivariate analysis. However, when treated as a categorical variable, 22% of the patients with a nonspecific diagnosis had a satisfaction score of 8 or lower compared with 11% of the patients given a specific diagnosis. First visit and greater pain intensity were significantly associated with a nonspecific diagnosis in bivariate analysis. In the multivariable models, no factors were independently associated with satisfaction or with nonspecific diagnoses.


      Although nonspecific diagnoses can sometimes be frustrating for both physician and patient, in this small study using a satisfaction measure with a strong ceiling effect, they were no less satisfying to patients on average and corresponded with slightly greater pain intensity than specific diagnoses.

      Clinical relevance

      The degree to which nonspecific diagnoses (perhaps in combination with compassionate care and incremental monitoring) can be part of a satisfying treatment experience merits additional investigation.

      Key words

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