The utility of patient-reported outcome measures among patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome

Kyle W. Murdock, Xin Shelley Wang, Qiuling Shi, Charles S. Cleeland, Christopher P. Fagundes, Suzanne D. Vernon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Purpose: Debilitating fatigue is a core symptom of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS); however, the utility of patient-reported symptom outcome measures of fatigue for ME/CFS patients is problematic due to ceiling effects and issues with reliability and validity. We sought to evaluate the performance of three patient-reported symptom measures in a sample of ME/CFS patients and matched controls. Methods: Two hundred and forty ME/CFS patients and 88 age, sex, race, and zip code matched controls participated in the study. Participants completed the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory-20, DePaul Symptom Questionnaire, and RAND SF-36. Results: The general and physical fatigue subscales on Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory-20, as well as the role of physical health on the RAND SF-36, demonstrated questionable or unacceptable internal consistency and problematic ceiling effects. The DePaul Symptom Questionnaire demonstrated excellent internal reliability, and less than 5 % of participants were at the ceiling on each subscale. The post-exertional malaise subscale on the DePaul Symptom Questionnaire demonstrated excellent clinical utility as it was able to differentiate between ME/CFS patients and controls (OR 1.23, p < .001) and predicted ceiling effects on other patient-reported outcome subscales. A score of 20 on the post-exertional malaise subscale of the DePaul Symptom Questionnaire optimally differentiated between patients and controls. Conclusions: Significant ceiling effects and concerns with reliability and validity were observed among Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory-20 and RAND SF-36 subscales for ME/CFS patients. The DePaul Symptom Questionnaire addresses a number of concerns typically identified when using patient-reported outcome measures with ME/CFS patients; however, an improved multidimensional patient-reported outcome tool for measuring ME/CFS-related symptoms is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)913-921
Number of pages9
JournalQuality of Life Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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