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Fatigue interventions in long term, physical health conditions: a scoping review of systematic reviews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Katrin Mary Hulme, Reza Sarafi, Sarah Thomas, Tom Mercer, Claire White, Marietta van der Linden, Rona Moss-Morris

Original languageEnglish
JournalPloS one
Accepted/In press30 Aug 2018
Published30 Aug 2018


King's Authors


Fatigue is prominent across many long term physical health conditions. This scoping review aimed to map the fatigue intervention literature, to ascertain if certain interventions may be effective across conditions, and if novel interventions tested in specific long term conditions may be promising for other conditions.

Scoping review methodological frameworks were used. Electronic bibliographic databases were searched (inception to November 2016) for systematic reviews of fatigue interventions in long term conditions. Inclusion criteria were: long term physical health condition; review focus on fatigue management; objective and systematic review process; primary review outcome is fatigue. Articles focussing on surgical interventions or treatments thought to trigger fatigue were excluded. A narrative synthesis was performed.

Of 115 full texts screened, 52 reviews were included. Interventions were categorised as pharmacological and non-pharmacological (exercise, psychological/behavioural and complementary medicine). Pharmacological interventions did not consistently demonstrate benefit, except for anti-TNFs and methylphenidate which may be effective at reducing fatigue. Non-pharmacological interventions such as graded exercise and fatigue-specific psychological interventions may be effective, but heterogeneous intervention components limit conclusions. ‘Complementary medicine’ interventions (e.g. Chinese herbal medicines) showed promise, but the possibility of publication bias must be considered.
Further research is necessary to inform clinical practice. The reported effectiveness of some interventions across inflammatory health conditions, such as anti-TNFs, aerobic exercise, and psychologically based approaches such as CBT, highlights a potential transdiagnostic avenue for fatigue management. More novel strategies that may be worth exploring include expressive writing and mindfulness, although the mechanisms for these in relation to fatigue are unclear. More work is needed to identify transdiagnostic mechanisms of fatigue and to design interventions based on these.

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