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01-03-2012 | General practice | Article

Online therapy combats chronic fatigue

MedWire News: A web-based therapeutic programme termed FITNET may offer a significant advance in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in young people.

Dutch researchers report that the FITNET (Fatigue In Teenagers on the interNET) programme proved substantially more effective than usual treatment, reducing the instance of severe fatigue and improving school attendance among teenagers with CFS.

Moreover, after just 6 months of treatment 63% of FITNET participants reported that they had recovered - nearly eight times as many as with usual care.

The randomised study included 135 adolescents aged 12-18 years who had had CFS for around 18 months, 68 of whom took part in the FITNET programme, while the other 67 received usual treatment involving mainly cognitive behavioural therapy or graded exercise therapy.

As reported in The Lancet, after 6 months the teenagers who received the internet-delivered therapy had a significantly higher rate of absence of severe fatigue than the usual care group (75% vs 16%) as well as of full school attendance (75% vs 16%) and normal physical functioning (78% vs 20%).

The authors say that the web-based approach has the advantages of being available at any time and avoiding face-to-face treatment barriers, such as poor access and missing school or work, while at the same time reducing overall treatment time and costs.

Study authors Dr Sanne Nijhof (University Medical Centre, Utrecht) conclude: "FITNET offers a readily accessible and highly effective treatment for adolescents with chronic fatigue syndrome. The results of this study justify implementation on a broader scale."

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Caroline Price