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OP-103 Severe ME/CFS in children: a British paediatric surveillance unit study
  1. Alexander Royston1,
  2. Manmita Rai2,
  3. Amberly Brigden3,
  4. Sarah Burge1,
  5. Terry Segal4,
  6. Ilaria Idini5,
  7. Katharine Pike1,
  8. Esther Crawley1
  1. 1Centre for Academic Child Health, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  2. 2King’s Clinical Trial Unit, King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry Psychology and Neuroscience, London, UK
  3. 3School of Engineering Mathematics and Technology, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  4. 4Paediatric Department, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  5. 5Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust Bath, UK


Aim Severe myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a poorly understood condition which significantly impacts education, development and quality of life in children and young people. We conducted a population-wide surveillance study to determine the prevalence and incidence rate of severe ME/CFS in children aged 5–16 years over 13 months. We aimed to describe the demographic features, symptoms, impact on activities of daily living, school attendance and time to diagnosis, along with exploring the screening investigations, referral pathways and management of cases of paediatric severe ME/CFS.

Material and Method Prospective surveillance study conducted by the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit. Paediatricians across UK and Ireland were asked if they had assessed a child with severe ME/CFS (screening definition was given, applying National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)-recommended criteria to assess severity of ME/CFS). Questionnaires describing demographics, symptoms, function and treatment were completed.

Results 285 cases were reported, of which 33 were confirmed severe, 4 probable severe and 55 possible severe (figure 1). Prevalence was 3.2 per million children (95% CI 2.2 to 4.5). Including possible/probable severe ME/CFS gave 8.9 per million children (95% CI 7.2 to 11). For 16 possible cases incomplete investigation to exclude alternative diagnoses prevented confirmation of a severe diagnosis. Only 64% of confirmed severe ME/CFS cases had been referred to specialist services. The management provided varied considerably between patients and four received nothing at all. The commonest management approaches were medication (67%), activity management and physiotherapy (61%).

Conclusions Although the prevalence of children with severe ME/CFS was low, all were very disabled. In addition, the majority receive little or no education. Full investigation is frequently incomplete and recommendations for referral and management are poorly implemented. The needs of housebound children are very likely be poorly met. Paediatricians need to consider how to provide rehabilitation and education for these disabled young people.

Abstract OP-103 Figure 1

Schematic of reported cases: reported cases of severe ME/CFS in children 5–16 years old from January 2018 to January 2019

  • CFS
  • child health
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • epidemiology
  • ME

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