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Chronic Fatigue Patients May Not Receive Proper ED Care

41 percent of patients did not go to ED, felt they would not be taken seriously or nothing could be done

woman holding her head

FRIDAY, Jan. 11, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Many patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) do not receive proper care in the emergency department, according to a study published online Jan. 11 in Open Access Emergency Medicine.

Christian R. Timbol, M.D., and James N. Baraniuk, M.D., from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and colleagues created an anonymous survey to score the severity of core CFS symptoms and reasons for going to the emergency department; attitudes and impressions of care were graded. Data were included for 282 patients with physician-diagnosed CFS.

The researchers found that 59 percent of the patients had gone to an emergency department; one-third of the presentations were consistent with orthostatic intolerance. Overall, 42 percent of participants were dismissed as having psychosomatic complaints; staff in the emergency department were not knowledgeable about CFS. Encounters were classified as unfavorable, with a score of 3.6 on a 10-point Likert scale. Forty-one percent of participants did not go to the emergency department and stated they would not be taken seriously or nothing could be done. A CFS questionnaire and prolonged presence (more than six months) of unremitting fatigue and cognitive, sleep, and postexertional malaise problems can be used to identify patients with CFS.

"The high proportion of patients who were basically told 'It is all in your head' by emergency department staff indicates that there is much misunderstanding and misgivings about the diagnosis of CFS," Baraniuk said in a statement.

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