An evaluation of multidisciplinary intervention for chronic fatigue syndrome with long-term follow-up, and a comparison with untreated controls
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Individuals meeting the Fukuda et al definition for chronic fatigue syndrome completed a multidisciplinary assessment that included medical, psychiatric, behavioral, and psychological evaluations. Patients were then offered a comprehensive multidisciplinary intervention that included (1) bringing the patient under optimal medical management; (2) treating any ongoing affective or anxiety disorder pharmacologically; and (3) implementing a comprehensive cognitive-behavioral treatment program. Fifty-one patients proceeded to treatment. The cognitive-behavioral component was carried out through the use of a therapist working with the patients in their own environments. The program was individually tailored to patients, but included (1) structured physical exercise and activation; (2) sleep management strategies; (3) careful activity management; (4) regulation of stimulant intake and reductions in use of symptomatic medications; (5) cognitive intervention designed to deal with patients' beliefs concerning the nature of their disorder; (6) participation of patients' family; and (7) efforts to establish specific vocational and avocational goals. Third parties were encouraged to collaborate cooperatively. Employers were urged to provide employment opportunities and facilitate a graduated but time-targeted return to work. Disability carriers were encouraged to provide interim financial support in the form of disability benefits, support therapeutic intervention, but also to establish a clear time-frame to access to benefits. Of 51 treated patients, 31 returned to gainful employment, 14 were functioning at a level equivalent to employment, and 6 remained significantly disabled. Twenty of the original 71 patients were contacted an average of 33 months later. Patients who had been treated showed good maintenance of gains. Untreated patients showed improvement in only a minority of cases.
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