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Long Term Follow up of Young People With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Attending a Pediatric Outpatient Service

Abstract

Aim: To determine the reported duration of illness, the functional and educational long-term outcomes, predictive factors for recovery and seek feedback regarding management in pediatric/adolescent myalgic encepahalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

Methods: A cohort observational study of 784 young people, mean age 14.6 (6-18) years, with ME/CFS diagnosed at a specialist pediatric hospital and receiving regular care, was conducted with follow-up for a mean 8 (range 1-21) years after onset. Baseline symptoms, history, depression and anxiety questionnaires were available from 418. The remaining 366, did not have similar standardized baseline information. Questionnaires requested functional rating, persistent symptoms, duration of illness if “recovered,” social engagement and school/work attendance. Feedback was sought regarding management, support services, useful information, helpful interventions or personnel and use of alternative therapies. Reported recovery and function were compared with baseline information and between the two groups.

Results: Follow-up data were returned from 81.8%. There was no significant difference in functional score (if reported recovery) or illness duration related to provision of baseline data. The mean duration of illness was 5 (range 1-15) years in the 50% who reported recovery. By 5 years 38% and by 10 years 68% reported recovery. At 10 years the mean functional score was 8/10 (range 2-10) with 5% scoring <6. Depression, anxiety or severity of illness at diagnosis was not predictive of non-recovery. Designing and monitoring their own management plan that included educational, social, physical and enjoyable activities, as well as having symptom management and understanding professionals were highly valued. However, remaining engaged in an education system that flexibly accommodated their illness and aspirations was consistently reported as crucial for long term functioning.

Conclusions: ME/CFS in young people has a mean duration of 5 years (1-15) with 68% reporting recovery by 10 years. All improved functionally with 5% remaining very unwell and a further 20% significantly unwell. There were no obvious baseline predictors for recovery. However, depression, anxiety, orthostatic intolerance and to a lesser extent pain at follow up were identified as hampering recovery or function. Supportive professionals, remaining engaged in education and management strategies were identified as helpful.

Source: Rowe KS. Long Term Follow up of Young People With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Attending a Pediatric Outpatient Service. Front Pediatr. 2019 Feb 21;7:21. doi: 10.3389/fped.2019.00021. eCollection 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6393360/ [1] (Full article)