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Concerns about over-diagnosis and inappropriate management of
Lyme disease (LD) are well documented in North America and supported by clinical data. There are few parallel data on the situation in the UK.
To describe the patterns of referral, investigation, diagnosis and treatment of patients with suspected LD referred to an infectious
disease unit in Liverpool, UK. Previous management by National Health Service (NHS) and non-NHS practitioners was reviewed.
Descriptive study conducted by retrospective casenotes review.
Retrospective casenotes review of adults referred with possible LD to an infectious
disease unit in Liverpool, UK, over 5 years (2006-2010).
Of 115 patients, 27 (23%) were diagnosed with LD, 38 (33%) with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and 13 (11%) with other medical conditions. No specific diagnosis could be made in 38 (33%). At least 53 unnecessary antibiotic courses had been given by non-NHS practitioners; 21 unnecessary courses had been prescribed by NHS practitioners. Among 38 patients, 17 (45%) with CFS had been misdiagnosed as having LD by non-NHS practitioners.
A minority of referred patients had LD, while a third had CFS. LD is over-diagnosed by non-specialists, reflecting the complexities of clinical and/or laboratory diagnosis. Patients with CFS were susceptible to misdiagnosis in non-NHS settings, reinforcing concerns about missed opportunities for appropriate treatment for this group and about the use of inappropriate diagnostic modalities and anti-microbials in non-NHS settings.