Background: Chronic fatigue syndrome is diagnosed by a set of clinical criteria and therefore is probably heterogeneous. Earlier reports tested the hypothesis that the syndrome had a neurological substrate by doing studies of cerebral blood flow (CBF) but with discrepant results. One possible reason for the discrepancy was that relative CBF was assessed. We found reduced CBF in an earlier study of absolute CBF using xenon-CT. The purpose of this study was to use a second method of assessing CBF and to look within the study group for heterogeneity of responses.
Method: Eleven CFS patients and 10 age matched healthy controls underwent neuroimaging using arterial spin labeling to determine their regional and global absolute CBF. A template was constructed based on the control data, and individual patient montages were compared on a case by case basis to determine if differences in regions of interest occurred.
Results: The patients as a group had significantly lower global CBF than the controls. The reduction in CBF occurred across nearly every region assessed. Nine of the 11 patients showed these reductions compared to the average control data, while two patients showed actual increases relative to the controls.
Conclusion: The data extend our earlier observation that CFS patients as a group have broad decreases in CBF compared to healthy controls. However, as expected, the effect was not homogeneous in that 2 of the 11 patients studied showed actual increases in CBF relative to controls.
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