Scientific article

Misperception of disease onset in people with gradual-onset disease of the upper extremity

Published inJournal of bone and joint surgery. American volume, vol. 102, no. 24, p. 2174-2180
Publication date2020-12-16

Background: Misperception that an established, gradual-onset disease such as osteoarthritis started when the symptoms were first noticed might lead to testing and treatment choices that are inconsistent with what matters most to a patient. In the present study, the primary null hypothesis was that there are no factors associated with patient-reported symptom duration (in months). The secondary null hypotheses were that there are no factors independently associated with (1) a sudden versus gradual perception of disease onset, (2) an event or injury-related versus age-related perceived cause of disease onset, and (3) the magnitude of physical limitations.

Methods: In this cross-sectional study, 121 patients with an atraumatic, established, gradual-onset condition of the upper extremity completed a demographic questionnaire, measures of mental health (symptoms of depression and anxiety, worst-case thinking, and self-efficacy [the ability to adapt and continue with daily activity] when in pain), measurement of the magnitude of upper extremity-specific limitations, and questions about the perceived course and cause of the disease.

Results: The median patient-reported symptom duration was 12 months (interquartile range, 3 to 36 months). Twenty-two patients (18%) perceived their disease as new, and 29 patients (24%) believed that the condition was related to ≥1 event (injury) rather than being time and age-related. In multivariable analysis, patients with Medicare insurance were independently associated with longer reported symptom duration (in months). Greater self-efficacy was associated with longer symptom duration in bivariate, but not multivariable, analysis. No factors were independently associated with a sudden versus gradual onset of symptoms. Hispanic ethnicity and federal, county, or no insurance were independently associated with the perception that the problem was caused by an injury or event.

Conclusions: Approximately 1 in 5 patients misperceived new symptoms as representing a new disease, often as a type of injury. Misperception of the pathology as new had a limited association with unhealthy thoughts and is likely generally responsive to reorientation. We speculate that gentle, strategic reorientation of misperception can protect patients from choices inconsistent with their values.

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arm
  • Arm Injuries / diagnosis
  • Arm Injuries / pathology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / pathology
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
Affiliation Not a UNIGE publication
Citation (ISO format)
LEMMERS, Maartje et al. Misperception of disease onset in people with gradual-onset disease of the upper extremity. In: Journal of bone and joint surgery. American volume, 2020, vol. 102, n° 24, p. 2174–2180. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.20.00420
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0021-9355

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