Validation of the severity of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome by other measures than history: activity bracelet, Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing and a validated activity, Questionnaire: SF-36, by by C (Linda) M C van Campen, Peter C Rowe and Frans C Visser in Healthcare 2020, 8(3), 273; []


Research abstract:


Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a severe and disabling chronic disease. Grading patient’s symptom and disease severity for comparison and therapeutic decision-making is necessary. Clinical grading that depends on patient self-report is subject to inter-individual variability. Having more objective measures to grade and confirm clinical grading would be desirable.

Therefore, the aim of this study was to validate the clinical severity grading that has been proposed by the authors of the ME International Consensus Criteria (ICC) using more standardized measures like questionnaires, and objective measures such as physical activity tracking and cardiopulmonary exercise testing.

Methods and results:

The clinical database of a subspecialty ME/CFS clinic was searched for patients who had completed the SF 36 questionnaire, worn a SensewearTM armband for five days, and undergone a cardiopulmonary exercise test. Only patients who completed all three investigations within 3 months from each other—to improve the likelihood of stable disease—were included in the analysis. Two-hundred-eighty-nine patients were analyzed: 121 were graded as mild, 98 as moderate and 70 as having severe disease.

The mean (SD) physical activity subscale of the SF-36 was 70 (11) for mild, 43 (8) for moderate and 15 (10) for severe ME/CFS patients. The mean (SD) number of steps per day was 8235 (1004) for mild, 5195 (1231) for moderate and 2031 (824) for severe disease. The mean (SD) percent predicted oxygen consumption at the ventilatory threshold was 47 (11)% for mild, 38 (7)% for moderate and 30 (7)% for severe disease. The percent peak oxygen consumption was 90 (14)% for mild, 64 (8)% for moderate and 48 (9)% for severe disease. All comparisons were p < 0.0001.


This study confirms the validity of the ICC severity grading. Grading assigned by clinicians on the basis of patient self-report created groups that differed significantly on measures of activity using the SF-36 physical function subscale and objective measures of steps per day and exercise capacity. There was variability in function within severity grading groups, so grading based on self-report can be strengthened by the use of these supplementary measures.

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