“Conversion disorder” refers to bodily dysfunction characterized by either sensory or motor neurological symptoms that are unexplainable by a medical condition. Given their somatosensory context, such disorders often require extensive medical evaluation, and the diagnosis can only be made after structural disease is excluded or fails to account for the severity and/or spectrum of the patient’s deficits.
The authors briefly review functional psychiatric disorders and discuss the comprehensive workup of a patient with a functional postoperative neurological deficit, drawing from their recent experience with a patient who presented with conversion disorder immediately after undergoing anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.
Conversion disorder has been found to be associated with bodily stress, requiring surgeons to be aware of this condition in the postoperative setting. This is especially true in neurosurgery, given the overlap of true neurological pathology, postoperative complications, and manifestations of conversion disorder. Although accurately diagnosing and managing patients with conversion disorder remains challenging, an understanding of the multifactorial nature of its etiology can help clinicians develop a methodical approach to this condition.