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A pilot registry of unexplained fatiguing illnesses and chronic fatigue syndrome

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By Dana J Brimmer et al. • • August 12, 2013

By Dana J Brimmer et al. 

Background: Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has no diagnostic clinical signs or biomarkers, so diagnosis requires ruling out conditions with similar signs and symptoms. We conducted a pilot registry of unexplained fatiguing illnesses and CFS to determine the feasibility of establishing and operating a registry and implementing an education outreach initiative. The pilot registry was conducted in Bibb County, Georgia. Patient referrals were obtained from healthcare providers who were identified by using various education outreach initiatives. These referrals were later supplemented with self-referrals by members of a local CFS support group. All patients meeting referral criteria were invited to participate in a screening interview to determine eligibility. If patients met registry criteria, they were invited to a one-day clinic for physical and laboratory evaluations. We classified patients based on the 1994 case definition.

Results: We registered 827 healthcare providers. Forty-two providers referred 88 patients, and 58 patients (66%) completed clinical evaluation. Of the 188 CFS support group members, 53 were self-referred and 46 (87%) completed the clinical evaluation. Of the 104 participants completing evaluation, 36% (n = 37) met the criteria for CFS, 17% (n = 18) had insufficient fatigue or symptoms (ISF), and 47% (n = 49) were found to have exclusionary medical or psychiatric illnesses. Classification varied significantly by type of referral but not by previous history of CFS diagnosis. Healthcare providers referred more patients who were classified as CFS as compared to support group referrals in which more exclusionary conditions were identified. Family practice and internal medicine specialties made the most referrals and had the highest number of CFS cases. We conducted three CME events, held three "Meet and Greet" sessions, visited four large clinical health practices and health departments, mailed five registry newsletters, and conducted in-person office visits as part of education outreach, which contributed to patient referrals.

Conclusions: Referrals from healthcare providers and self-referrals from the patient support group were important to registry enrollment. The number of potentially treatable conditions that were identified highlights the need for continued medical management in this population, as well as the limitations of registries formed without clinical examination. Education initiatives were successful in part because of partnerships with local organizations.

Source: BMC Research Notes 2013, 6:309 doi:10.1186/1756-0500-6-309. Dana J Brimmer, Elizabeth Maloney, Rebecca Devlin, James F Jones, Roumiana Boneva, Caryn Nagler, Lisa LeRoy, Scott Royal, Hao Tian, Jin-Mann S Lin, Jennifer Kasten and Elizabeth R Unger

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