Malfunctioning of the autonomic nervous system in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome: a systematic literature review

Authors

  • Deborah Van Cauwenbergh,

    1. Pain in Motion Research Group, Departments of Human Physiology and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Physical Education & Physiotherapy, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussel, Belgium
    2. Pain in Motion Research Group, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium
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  • Jo Nijs,

    Corresponding author
    1. Pain in Motion Research Group, Departments of Human Physiology and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Physical Education & Physiotherapy, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussel, Belgium
    2. Department of Physical Medicine and Physiotherapy, University Hospital Brussels, Brussels, Belgium
    • Correspondence to: Jo Nijs, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Life science campus Jette Building F-Kine, Laarbeeklaan 103, BE-1090 Brussels, Belgium. Tel.: +3224774489; e-mail: Jo.Nijs@vub.ac.be

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  • Daphne Kos,

    1. Occupational therapy, Artesis Plantijn Antwerp & KU Leuven, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
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  • Laura Van Weijnen,

    1. Pain in Motion Research Group, Departments of Human Physiology and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Physical Education & Physiotherapy, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussel, Belgium
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  • Filip Struyf,

    1. Pain in Motion Research Group, Departments of Human Physiology and Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Physical Education & Physiotherapy, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussel, Belgium
    2. Pain in Motion Research Group, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium
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  • Mira Meeus

    1. Pain in Motion Research Group, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium
    2. Department of Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Brussels, Belgium
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Abstract

Introduction

It is hypothesised that the autonomic nervous system responds differently to various stressors in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) compared with healthy controls. The goal is to systematically review the scientific literature addressing the functioning of the autonomic nervous system in patients with CFS.

Materials and methods

All studies that were identified through electronic databases (PubMed and Web of Science) were screened for eligibility based on the selection criteria and assessed (two independent raters) for methodological quality using a methodological checklist for case–control studies.

Results

Twenty-seven case–control studies were included. The methodological quality varied between 50% and 71·4%. Some studies showed different responses to head-up tilt and other autonomous testing.

Conclusion

Although comparison between the included case–control studies was difficult, we can conclude that there are differences in autonomous response between patients with CFS and healthy controls. The heart rate dynamic response during the head-up tilt test differs between patients with CFS and healthy controls, supporting the increased prevalence of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. The autonomic response can be useful for the diagnosis of CFS.

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