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Abstract: A comparison of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome attending separate fatigue clinics based in immunology and psychiatry

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Source: J R Soc Med 2002 Sep;95(9):440-4

White PD, Pinching AJ, Rakib A, Castle M, Hedge B, Priebe S.

Departments of Psychological Medicine and Immunology, Barts and the London, Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of London, London EC1A 7BE, UK.

Hospital clinics for patients with chronic unexplained fatigue are held in departments of various disciplines. This causes difficulties for referrers in choosing the appropriate clinic and for researchers in generalizing findings from one type of clinic to others. We randomly selected 37 outpatients attending an immunology fatigue clinic and 36 outpatients attending a psychiatry fatigue clinic, all of whom had chronic fatigue syndrome. We compared demographic factors, symptoms, disability, quality of life, psychological distress and illness attributions. The patients from the two clinics were closely similar in their specific symptoms, disability, quality of life, psychological distress and previous attendance to mental health professionals. Psychological distress was high and equal in the two samples.

The proportion of men was greater among patients attending the immunology clinic. In a post-hoc analysis, 64% of immunology attenders attributed their fatigue to physical factors, compared with 31% of psychiatry clinic attenders (chi(2)=6.35, 1 d.f., P=0.01).

These findings suggest that research data from one type of chronic fatigue clinic can be generalized to others. Clinically similar patients are referred to different clinics, and the choice of clinic may be influenced by the patients' illness beliefs. The high levels of emotional distress suggest that psychosocial management is as important as physical management in hospital outpatients with chronic fatigue syndrome, irrespective of its aetiology.

PMID: 12205207 [PubMed – in process]

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