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An evaluation of exclusionary medical/psychiatric conditions in the definition of chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Published Date:
    Oct 12 2009
  • Source:
    BMC Med. 2009; 7:57.
Filetype[PDF - 234.71 KB]


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  • Description:
    Background

    The diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in research studies requires the exclusion of subjects with medical and psychiatric conditions that could confound the analysis and interpretation of results. This study compares illness parameters between individuals with CFS who have and those who do not have exclusionary conditions.

    Methods

    We used a population-based telephone survey of randomly selected individuals, followed by a clinical evaluation in the study metropolitan, urban, and rural counties of Georgia, USA. The medical and psychiatric histories of the subjects were examined and they underwent physical and psychiatric examinations and laboratory screening. We also employed the multidimensional fatigue inventory (MFI), the medical outcomes survey short form-36 (SF-36) and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention symptom inventory (SI).

    Results

    Twenty-nine percent (1,609) of the 5623 subjects who completed the detailed telephone interview reported exclusionary diagnoses and we diagnosed an exclusionary condition in 36% of 781 clinically evaluated subjects. Both medical and psychiatric exclusionary conditions were more common in women, blacks and participants from rural areas. Subjects with and without exclusions had similar levels of fatigue and impairment as measured by the MFI and SF-36; those with CFS-like illness (not meeting the formal CFS definition) were more likely to have an exclusionary diagnosis. After adjusting for demographics, body mass index, fatigue subscales, SF-36 subscales and CFS symptoms, CFS-like illness did not remain significantly associated with having an exclusionary diagnosis.

    Conclusion

    Medical and psychiatric illnesses associated with fatigue are common among the unwell. Those who fulfill CFS-like criteria need to be evaluated for potentially treatable conditions. Those with exclusionary conditions are equally impaired as those without exclusions.