Objectives: To examine the general phenomenon of fatigue in stroke and other neurologic disorders and to review what is currently known about its occurrence, including its frequency, duration, severity, and associated factors, to develop a strategy for treatment.
Data sources: Computerized databases (eg, PubMed, PsycInfo, Science Citation Index, Ovid EMBASE, Ovid MEDLINE) searched from inception to May 2002. Additional references were identified from bibliographies of pertinent articles and books.
Study selection: Over 1000 articles were identified as relevant to fatigue experienced by patients with neurologic or nonneurologic disorders. Articles on fatigue in stroke and neurologic disorders, mechanisms, and/or treatment were selected for inclusion.
Data extraction: Authors reviewed the articles and assessed the purpose, study design, and conclusions for validity and relevance to the topic of fatigue in stroke.
Data synthesis: Fatigue is a common complaint among patients with neurologic disorders including stroke. Few studies have documented the high frequency of fatigue in poststroke patients and its negative impact on daily functioning and quality of life. Little is known about associated factors or about therapeutic strategies that may be used to alleviate it. Examination of fatigue in other neurologic populations suggests common characteristics and associated factors that may be useful in the development of potential therapeutic strategies. Pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic therapeutic interventions, such as stimulants, amantadine, or sleep and stress-management education, have been used with some success in neurologic and other patient populations (eg, multiple sclerosis, human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, cancer), but evidence of effectiveness based on randomized clinical trials is rare.
Conclusions: Poststroke fatigue is common. Therapeutic strategies have been used to treat fatigue in other patient populations, but it is unclear whether these will be beneficial to poststroke patients. Frequency, severity, duration, impact, predisposing factors, and causes of poststroke fatigue, as well as the development of effective treatment, require further research. Criteria for assessment of fatigue and potential therapeutic interventions are outlined as a first step for stimulating further research.