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A survey of adult referrals to specialist attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder clinics in Canada

Authors Klassen LJ, Blackwood CM, Reaume CJ, Schaffer S, Burns JG

Received 30 June 2017

Accepted for publication 17 October 2017

Published 22 December 2017 Volume 2018:11 Pages 1—10

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/IJGM.S145269

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Amy Norman

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser


Larry J Klassen,1 C Matthew Blackwood,2 Christopher J Reaume,3 Samuel Schaffer,3 James G Burns3

1Eden Mental Health Centre, Winkler, MB, 2Cedar Care Clinic, Mission, BC, 3International Medical Affairs, Shire Pharma Canada ULC, Toronto, ON, Canada

Background: Canadian guidelines encourage family physicians to diagnose/manage adults with uncomplicated attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); specialist referral is recommended only for complex cases. This retrospective case review investigated adults referred to Canadian ADHD clinics.
Methods: Adult ADHD specialists reviewed referral letters/charts of patients (aged ≥18 years and no family history/known/expressed childhood ADHD) from family physicians/psychiatrists over 2 years.
Results: Data on 515 referrals (mean age 33 years, 60% males) were collected (December 2014 to September 2015); 472/515 (92%) were made by family physicians. No psychiatric comorbid symptoms were noted in 344/515 (67%) referrals. ADHD was confirmed by a specialist in 483/515 (94%) cases, whether comorbid symptoms were noted at referral (155/171 [91%]) or not (328/344 [95%]). ADHD was reported to impact “work” (251/317 [79%]), “school” (121/166 [73%]), “social/friends” (260/483 [54%]), and “spouse/family” (231/483 [48%]). Overall, 335/483 (69%) patients had more than or equal to one comorbid symptom (diagnosed by referring physician or specialist). Stimulant monotherapy was recommended for 383/483 (79%) patients, non-stimulant monotherapy for 41/483 (8%) patients, and stimulant plus non-stimulant monotherapy for 39/483 (8%) patients. Almost half of patients were returned for referring physician’s follow-up, either before treatment initiation (102/483 [21%]) or after treatment stabilization (99/483 [20%]). Follow-up was by a specialist for 282/483 (58%) patients.
Conclusion: ADHD diagnosis was specialist confirmed in most cases. Although most referrals (67%) noted no psychiatric comorbid symptoms, 69% of patients had ≥1 such symptom (diagnosed by a referring physician or specialist), so comorbid symptoms although not always noted at referral, may have contributed to the decision to refer. ADHD has a wide-ranging impact on patients’ daily lives. It is possible that greater confidence of family physicians to diagnose and treat adult ADHD could help to meet patients’ needs.

Keywords: attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, adult, Canada, diagnosis, comorbid symptoms, family medicine/general practice/primary care

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