Thursday, March 3, 2016

Adult Asylum Seekers from the Middle East Including Syria in Central Europe: What Are Their Health Care Problems?

Forced displacement related to persecution and violent conflict has reached a new peak in recent years. The primary aim of this study is to provide an initial overview of the acute and chronic health care problems of asylum seekers from the Middle East, with special emphasis on asylum seekers from Syria.

Our retrospective data analysis comprised adult patients presenting to our emergency department between 01.11.2011 and 30.06.2014 with the official resident status of an “asylum seeker” or “refugee” from the Middle East.

In total, 880 patients were included in the study. Of these, 625 (71.0%) were male and 255 (29.0%) female. The median age was 34 (range 16–84). 222 (25.2%) of our patients were from Syria. The most common reason for presentation was surgical (381, 43.3%), followed by medical (321, 36.5%) and psychiatric (137, 15.6%). In patients with surgical presentations, trauma-related problems were most common (n = 196, 50.6%). Within the group of patients with medical presentation, acute infectious diseases were most common (n = 141, 43.9%), followed by neurological problems (n = 70, 21.8%) and gastrointestinal problems (n = 47, 14.6%). There were no differences between Syrian and non-Syrian refugees concerning surgical or medical admissions. The most common chronic disorder of unclear significance was chronic gastrointestinal problems (n = 132, 15%), followed by chronic musculoskeletal problems (n = 108, 12.3%) and chronic headaches (n = 78, 8.9%). Patients from Syria were significantly younger and more often suffered from a post-traumatic stress disorder than patients of other nationalities (p<0.0001, and p = 0.05, respectively).

Overall a remarkable number of our very young group of patients suffered from psychiatric disorders and unspecified somatic symptoms. Asylum seekers should be carefully evaluated when presenting to a medical facility and physicians should be aware of the high incidence of unspecified somatic symptoms in this patient population.In general, there is no major difference between asylum seekers from Syria when compared to other nationalities of asylum seekers from the Middle East.

Below:  Overview of patients' origins

Below:  Number of patients presenting to emergency department by year and country of origin

Below:  Overview of psychiatric co-morbidities by country of origin

Full article at:

1Department of General Anaesthesiology, Intensive Care and Pain Management, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
2University Department of Emergency Medicine, University Hospital and University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
3University Hospital of Psychiatry and University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
Queensland University of Technology, AUSTRALIA
Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
Conceived and designed the experiments: CAP TM AKE. Performed the experiments: CAP MS TM BL. Analyzed the data: CAP AKE. Wrote the paper: CAP MS TM BL AKE.

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