THURSDAY, Dec. 15 (HealthDay News) -- School-based clinics can identify children with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME), and may be useful for diagnosing children with less severe symptoms, according to a study published online Dec. 12 in BMJ Open.
Esther M. Crawley, B.M., B.Ch., Ph.D., from the School of Social and Community Medicine in Bristol, U.K., and colleagues examined the feasibility of organizing clinics for CFS/ME in schools. A total of 2,855 children, aged 11 to 16 years, from three schools were enrolled. Over a six-week term, children who missed ≥20 percent of school without a known cause were identified, and those with fatigue were evaluated at a specialist CFS/ME service. Outcomes for children identified as possibly having CFS/ME through school-based clinics were compared to outcomes for children referred through health services.
The investigators found that a total of 461 children missed ≥20 percent of school. For 315 children, the reason for absence was known, including three with CFS/ME. Of the 146 children with unexplained absence, 112 attended the school clinic; two children had previously been diagnosed with CFS/ME. Specialist clinic referrals amounted to 42, of which 23 children were diagnosed with CFS/ME. In total, 28 children (1.0 percent) had CFS/ME. The children identified through the school-based clinic had been ill for a period of time comparable to those referred through health services, but had less fatigue and disability, and fewer symptoms. Six of the 19 children who were followed recovered fully at six weeks, and another six recovered at six months.
"Children diagnosed through school-based clinics are less severely affected than those referred to specialist services and appear to make rapid progress when they access treatment," the authors write.