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Reducing fatigue in pediatric rheumatic conditions: a systematic review

  • Kant-Smits, K.1
  • Van Brussel, M.1
  • Nijhof, S.2
  • Van der Net, J.1
  • 1 University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht University, Suite KB.02.055.1, Internal mail KB.02.056.0, PO Box 85090, Utrecht, AB, 3508, The Netherlands , Utrecht (Netherlands)
  • 2 Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands , Utrecht (Netherlands)
Published Article
Pediatric Rheumatology
Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Publication Date
Jul 08, 2021
DOI: 10.1186/s12969-021-00580-8
Springer Nature
  • Review


BackgroundAlthough fatigue is a prevalent distressing symptom in children and adolescents with Pediatric Rheumatic Conditions (PRCs), intervention studies designed for reducing fatigue in PRCs are limited.AimTo systematically review evidence regarding the efficacy of interventions intended to reduce fatigue in patients with PRCs.MethodsComprehensive electronic searches were performed in PubMed/ MEDLINE, Embase, Web of Science and Cinahl. The risk of bias was assessed using the ‘Revised Cochrane risk-of-bias tool for randomized trials’ and ‘Quality Assessment Tool for Before-After Studies With No Control Group’ for respectively studies with and without a control group.ResultsTen out of 418 studies were included with a total of 240 participants (age range 5–23 years). Interventions included land-based and aquatic-based exercise therapy, prednisolone, vitamin-D and creatine supplementation, psychological therapy and a transition program into an adult rheumatology program. Fatigue was assessed with self-reported questionnaires in all included studies. Land-based exercise therapy was effective in one pre-post intervention study, whereas not effective in two randomized controlled trials. Aquatic-based exercise therapy was found more effective than land-based exercise therapy. Two placebo-controlled studies showed a significant positive effect in reducing subjective fatigue with prednisolone and vitamin-D. Creatine was not found effective. Cognitive therapy was effective in one pre-post intervention study, while one RCT did not show an effect in reducing fatigue. A transition program based on health education showed a small reducing effect, however, it was not clear if this was a significant effect. Six studies showed a high risk of bias, three studies a moderate risk, and one study had a low risk of bias.ConclusionsInsufficient evidence is provided to substantiate the efficacy of current interventions to reduce fatigue in PRCs. The low number of studies, non-comparable interventions, risk of bias, and inconclusive outcomes of the included studies denote future research should focus on intervention studies aimed at the treatment of fatigue in children and adolescents with PRCs. Identification of possible underlying biological and psychosocial mechanisms as possible treatment targets to reduce complaints of fatigue in children and adolescents with PRCs is warranted.

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