Ulysses Syndrome refers to an unnecessary workup of a patient for a nonexistent problem. One might refer to this as the "useless" syndrome. Unfortunately the syndrome cannot be diagnosed with certainty until the patient has been completely worked up.

Features of the Ulysesses Syndrome:

(1) A workup prompted by an abnormal clinical, radiologic or laboratory finding.

(2) In the classic Ulysses syndrome the patient is perfectly normal and does not have the suspected condition.



(1) working up a growing child or pregnant woman with an elevated serum alkaline phosphatase

(2) performance of additional tests because a result was misinterpreted

(3) workup or therapy for a false positive test for syphilis


Risk factors:

(1) inexperienced clinician

(2) concern about being sued or rebuked (negative reinforcement for moderation)

(3) routine use of multiple tests (the more tests that are done the more likely that at least one will be abnormal)

(4) profit motive for ordering more tests (positive reinforcement for excess)

(5) error in the handling of a specimen or the performance of the initial test

(6) accepting a result without questioning or checking


Consequences may include:

(1) high cost

(2) patient anxiety

(3) waste of time and resources

(4) exposure to radiation or drugs

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