Treatment outcome in adults with chronic fatigue syndrome: a prospective study in England based on the CFS/ME National Outcomes Database.
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BACKGROUND: Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is relatively common and disabling. Over 8000 patients attend adult services each year, yet little is known about the outcome of patients attending NHS services. AIM: Investigate the outcome of patients with CFS and what factors predict outcome. DESIGN: Longitudinal patient cohort. METHODS: We used data from six CFS/ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) specialist services to measure changes in fatigue (Chalder Fatigue Scale), physical function (SF-36), anxiety and depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale) and pain (visual analogue pain rating scale) between clinical assessment and 8-20 months of follow-up. We used multivariable linear regression to investigate baseline factors associated with outcomes at follow-up. RESULTS: Baseline data obtained at clinical assessment were available for 1643 patients, of whom 834 (51%) had complete follow-up data. There were improvements in fatigue [mean difference from assessment to outcome: -6.8; 95% confidence interval (CI) -7.4 to -6.2; P < 0.001]; physical function (4.4; 95% CI 3.0-5.8; P < 0.001), anxiety (-0.6; 95% CI -0.9 to -0.3; P < 0.001), depression (-1.6; 95% CI -1.9 to -1.4; P < 0.001) and pain (-5.3; 95% CI -7.0 to -3.6; P < 0.001). Worse fatigue, physical function and pain at clinical assessment predicted a worse outcome for fatigue at follow-up. Older age, increased pain and physical function at assessment were associated with poorer physical function at follow-up. CONCLUSION: Patients who attend NHS specialist CFS/ME services can expect similar improvements in fatigue, anxiety and depression to participants receiving cognitive behavioural therapy and graded exercise therapy in a recent trial, but are likely to experience less improvement in physical function. Outcomes were predicted by fatigue, disability and pain at assessment.