Munchausen syndrome and Munchausen syndrome by proxy: a narrative review

ABSTRACT The Munchausen syndrome and Munchausen syndrome by proxy are factitious disorders characterized by fabrication or induction of signs or symptoms of a disease, as well as alteration of laboratory tests. People with this syndrome pretend that they are sick and tend to seek treatment, without secondary gains, at different care facilities. Both syndromes are well-recognized conditions described in the literature since 1951. They are frequently observed by health teams in clinics, hospital wards and emergency rooms. We performed a narrative, nonsystematic review of the literature, including case reports, case series, and review articles indexed in MEDLINE/PubMed from 1951 to 2015. Each study was reviewed by two psychiatry specialists, who selected, by consensus, the studies to be included in the review. Although Munchausen syndrome was first described more than 60 years ago, most of studies in the literature about it are case reports and literature reviews. Literature lacks more consistent studies about this syndrome epidemiology, therapeutic management and prognosis. Undoubtedly, these conditions generate high costs and unnecessary procedures in health care facilities, and their underdiagnose might be for lack of health professional's knowledge about them, and to the high incidence of countertransference to these patients and to others, who are exposed to high morbidity and mortality, is due to symptoms imposed on self or on others.