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Relationship between autonomic cardiovascular control, case definition, clinical symptoms, and functional disability in adolescent chronic fatigue syndrome: an exploratory study

Vegard B Wyller12* and Ingrid B Helland2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Paediatrics, Oslo University Hospital and University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

2 Department of Paediatrics, Oslo University Hospital Rikshospitalet, N-0027, Oslo, Norway

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BioPsychoSocial Medicine 2013, 7:5  doi:10.1186/1751-0759-7-5

Published: 7 February 2013

Abstract

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is characterized by severe impairment and multiple symptoms. Autonomic dysregulation has been demonstrated in several studies. We aimed at exploring the relationship between indices of autonomic cardiovascular control, the case definition from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC criteria), important clinical symptoms, and disability in adolescent chronic fatigue syndrome. 38 CFS patients aged 12–18 years were recruited according to a wide case definition (ie. not requiring accompanying symptoms) and subjected to head-up tilt test (HUT) and a questionnaire. The relationships between variables were explored with multiple linear regression analyses. In the final models, disability was positively associated with symptoms of cognitive impairments (p<0.001), hypersensitivity (p<0.001), fatigue (p=0.003) and age (p=0.007). Symptoms of cognitive impairments were associated with age (p=0.002), heart rate (HR) at baseline (p=0.01), and HR response during HUT (p=0.02). Hypersensitivity was associated with HR response during HUT (p=0.001), high-frequency variability of heart rate (HF-RRI) at baseline (p=0.05), and adherence to the CDC criteria (p=0.005). Fatigue was associated with gender (p=0.007) and adherence to the CDC criteria (p=0.04). In conclusion, a) The disability of CFS patients is not only related to fatigue but to other symptoms as well; b) Altered cardiovascular autonomic control is associated with certain symptoms; c) The CDC criteria are poorly associated with disability, symptoms, and indices of altered autonomic nervous activity.

Keywords:
Adolescents; Chronic fatigue syndrome; Autonomic cardiovascular control; Diagnostic criteria