Abstract: Associations between neuroendocrine responses to the Insulin Tolerance Test and patient characteristics in chronic fatigue syndrome

J Psychosom Res. 2004 Apr;56(4):419-24.

Gaab J, Engert V, Heitz V, Schad T, Schurmeyer TH, Ehlert U.

Center for Psychobiological and Psychosomatic Research, University of Trier, Germany.

OBJECTIVE: Subtle dysregulations of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis have been proposed as an underlying pathophysiological mechanism in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). This study attempted to assess the relationship between patient characteristics and HPA axis functioning using a neuroendocrine challenge test.

METHOD: A test battery designed to assess different dimensions of CFS was given to 18 CFS patients and 17 controls. To evaluate the integrity of the HPA axis, the Insulin Tolerance Test (ITT), a centrally acting neuroendocrine challenge test, was performed on patients and controls. ACTH, salivary free cortisol and total plasma cortisol levels were assessed as a measure of the HPA axis stress response. Correlations of patient characteristics were calculated with integrated responses for all endocrine parameters.

RESULTS: CFS patients had a significantly reduced area under the ACTH response curve (AUC) in the ITT. The AUC was significantly associated with the duration of CFS symptoms (r=-.592, P=.005) and the severity of fatigue symptomatology (r=-.41, P=.045). In addition, duration of CFS was correlated with the severity of fatigue symptoms (r=.38, P=.045). Similar associations were not observed for cortisol parameters.

CONCLUSION: It has been postulated that neuroendocrine dysregulations observed in CFS are of an acquired nature. The results of a strong association between the integrated ACTH response and the duration of CFS emphasizes the need to consider factors known to be risk factors for the chronicity of CFS symptoms, such as profound inactivity, deconditioning and sleep abnormalities, as possible candidates for secondary causes of neuroendocrine dysregulations in CFS.

PMID: 15094026 [PubMed – in process]

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