Recovery from chronic fatigue syndrome: a systematic review-heterogeneity of definition limits study comparison.

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Paediatric chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) is a common illness with a major impact on quality of life. Recovery is poorly understood. Our aim was to describe definitions of recovery in paediatric CFS/ME, the rate of recovery and the time to recovery.This systematic review included a detailed search of MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycInfo and Cochrane Library between 1994 and July 2018. Inclusion criteria were (1) clinical trials and observational studies, (2) participants aged <19 years with CFS/ME, (3) conducted in Western Healthcare systems and (4) studies including a measure of recovery and time taken to recover.Twelve papers (10 studies) were identified, involving 826 patients (range 23-135). Recovery rates were highly varied, ranging between 4.5% and 83%.Eleven distinct definitions of recovery were used; six were composite outcomes while five used unidimensional outcomes. Outcome measures used to define recovery were highly heterogeneous. School attendance (n=8), fatigue (n=6) and physical functioning (n=4) were the most common outcomes included in definition of recovery. Only five definitions included a personal measure of recovery.Definitions of recovery are highly variable, likely secondary to differences in study design, outcomes used, follow-up and study populations. Heterogeneous definitions of recovery limit meaningful comparison between studies, highlighting the need for a consensus definition going forward. Recovery is probably best defined from the child’s own perspective with a single self-reported measure. If composite measures are used for research, there should be agreement on the core outcome set used.

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Authors: Yasmin Moore, Teona Serafimova, Nina Anderson, Hayley King, Alison Richards, Amberly Brigden, Parisa Sinai, Julian Higgins, Caitlin Ascough, Philippa Clery, Esther M Crawley