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Ciba Found Symp. 1993;173:102-17; discussion 117-31.

Muscle histopathology and physiology in chronic fatigue syndrome.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Liverpool, UK.


Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is characterized by fatigue at rest which is made worse by exercise. Previous biopsy studies on small numbers of CFS patients have shown a range of morphological changes to which have been attributed fatigue and myalgia. We have now studied 108 patients with CFS or muscle pain and 22 normal volunteers by light and electron microscopy. There was no consistent correlation between symptoms and changes in fibre type prevalence, fibre size, degenerative or regenerative features, glycogen depletion, or mitochondrial abnormalities. Physiological contractile properties of quadriceps (maximal isometric force generation, frequency: force characteristics and relaxation rate) were also examined before and for up to 48 hours after a symptom-limited incremental cycle ergometer exercise test in 12 CFS patients and 12 normal volunteers. Voluntary and stimulated force characteristics were normal at rest and during recovery. Exercise duration was similar in the two groups although CFS patients had higher perceived exertion scores in relation to heart rate during exercise, indicating a reduced effort sensation threshold. On physiological and pathological grounds it is clear that CFS is not a myopathy. Psychological/psychiatric factors appear to be of greater importance in this condition.

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