Comparison of the Degree of Deconditioning in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) Patients with and without Orthostatic Intolerance

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C (Linda) M.C. van Campen, MD Frans C. Visser, MD


Background: Orthostatic intolerance (OI) is a core finding in individuals with myalgic encephalomyelitis /chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Deconditioning is often proposed as an important determinant for OI. Deconditioning can be objectively classified using the predicted peak oxygen consumption (%VO2 peak) values as derived from cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) and OI can be objectively quantified using cerebral blood flow (CBF) changes during tilt testing. Therefore, if deconditioning contributes to OI, a correlation between peak VO2 and the %CBF reduction is expected.

Methods and results: 18 healthy controls (HC) and 122 ME/CFS patients without hypotension or tachycardia on tilt testing were studied. Deconditioning was classified as follows: %VO2 peak ≥85%= no deconditioning, %VO2 peak 65-85%= mild deconditioning, %VO2 peak<65%= severe deconditioning. HC had higher %VO2 peak compared to ME/CFS patients (p<0.0001). ME/CFS patients had significantly larger CBF reduction than HC (p<0.0001). No relation between the degree of deconditioning by the %VO2 peak and the %CBF reduction in ME/CFS patients was found. Moreover, we separately analyzed ME/CFS patients without an abnormal CBF reduction. Despite equal CBF reductions compared to HC and large differences between these patients and the patients with an abnormal CBF reduction, cardiac index (CI) changes (measured by suprasternal Doppler) were significantly less compared to ME/CFS patients with an abnormal CBF reduction (p<0.0001) but larger than in HC (p=0.004). Despite these different hemodynamic findings, %VO2 values were not different between the two patient groups, argumenting again against the causative role of hemodynamic abnormalities in deconditioning. 

Conclusion: In ME/CFS patients without hypotension or tachycardia there is no relation between the %VO2 peak during CPET and the %CBF and %CI reduction during tilt testing, whether or not patients have an abnormal CBF reduction during tilt testing. It suggests again that deconditioning does not play an important role in OI.

Keywords: chronic fatigue syndrome, myalgic encephalomyelitis, peak oxygen consumption, cardiopulmonary exercise test, deconditioning, cerebral blood flow, orthostatic hypotension, orthostatic intolerance, head-up tilt testing

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VAN CAMPEN, C (Linda) M.C.; VISSER, Frans C.. Comparison of the Degree of Deconditioning in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) Patients with and without Orthostatic Intolerance. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 10, n. 6, june 2022. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 20 apr. 2024. doi:
Research Articles


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