Recovery from chronic fatigue syndrome: a systematic review—heterogeneity of definition limits study comparison
Moore Y., Serafimova T., Anderson N., King H., Richards A., Brigden A., Sinai P., Higgins J., Ascough C., Clery P., Crawley EM.
BackgroundPaediatric 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.MethodsThis 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.ResultsTwelve 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.ImplicationsDefinitions 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.