Chronic fatigue syndrome research: Definition and medical outcome assessment

Ann Schluederberg, Stephen E. Straus, Phillip Peterson, Susan Blumenthal, Anthony L. Komaroff, Susan B. Spring, Alan Landay, Dedra Buchwald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

302 Scopus citations


A workshop was held 18 to 19 March 1991 at the National Institutes of Health to address critical issues in research concerning the chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Case definition, confounding diagnoses, and medical outcome assessment by laboratory and other means were considered from the perspectives of key medical specialties involved in CFS research. It was recommended that published Centers for Disease Control (CDC) case-definition criteria be modified to exclude fewer patients from analysis because of a history of psychiatric disorder. Specific recommendations were made concerning the inclusion or exclusion of other major confounding diagnoses, and a standard panel of laboratory tests was specified for initial patient evaluation. The workshop emphasized the importance of recognizing other conditions that could explain the patient's symptoms and that may be treatable. It was viewed as essential for the investigator to screen for psychiatric disorder using a combination of self-report instruments followed by at least one structured interview to identify patients who should be excluded from studies or considered as a separate subgroup in data analysis. Because CFS is not a homogeneous abnormality and because there is no single pathogenic mechanism, research progress may depend upon delineation of these and other patient subgroups for separate data analysis. Despite preliminary data, no physical finding or laboratory test was deemed confirmatory of the diagnosis of CFS. For assessment of clinical status, investigators must rely on the use of standardized instruments for patient self-reporting of fatigue, mood disturbance, functional status, sleep disorder, global well-being, and pain. Further research is needed to develop better instruments for quantifying these domains in patients with CFS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-331
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of internal medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 15 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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