Systematic review of primary Outcome Measurements for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) in randomized controlled trials, by  Do-Young Kim, Jin-Seok Lee and Chang-Gue Son in J. Clin. Med. 2020, 9(11) 3463 [] (This article belongs to the Special Issue Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis: Diagnosis and Treatment)


Research abstract:


Due to its unknown etiology, the objective diagnosis and therapeutics of chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) are still challenging.

Generally, the patient-reported outcome (PRO) is the major strategy driving treatment response because the patient is the most important judge of whether changes are meaningful.


In order to determine the overall characteristics of the main outcome measurement applied in clinical trials for CFS/ME, we systematically surveyed the literature using two electronic databases, PubMed and the Cochrane Library, throughout June 2020. We analyzed randomized controlled trials (RCTs) for CFS/ME focusing especially on main measurements.


Fifty-two RCTs out of a total 540 searched were selected according to eligibility criteria. Thirty-one RCTs (59.6%) used single primary outcome and others adapted ≥2 kinds of measurements. In total, 15 PRO-derived tools were adapted (50 RCTs; 96.2%) along with two behavioral measurements for adolescents (4 RCTs; 7.7%). The 36-item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36; 16 RCTs), Checklist Individual Strength (CIS; 14 RCTs), and Chalder Fatigue Questionnaire (CFQ; 11 RCTs) were most frequently used as the main outcomes. Since the first RCT in 1996, Clinical Global Impression (CGI) and SF-36 have been dominantly used each in the first and following decade (26.1% and 28.6%, respectively), while both CIS and Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory (MFI) have been the preferred instruments (21.4% each) in recent years (2016 to 2020).


This review comprehensively provides the choice pattern of the assessment tools for interventions in RCTs for CFS/ME. Our data would be helpful practically in the design of clinical studies for CFS/ME-related therapeutic development.

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