Fatigue is a frequent and disabling phenomenon among patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). Daytime sleepiness is a typical symptom of the sleep apnoea/hypopnoea syndrome due to nocturnal hypoxia and recurrent arousals causing sleep fragmentation. Since MS plaques are often found in the midbrain, brain stem and upper cervical cord on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) we hypothesized that fatigue in MS patients might be caused by a central respiratory dysfunction. We investigated 10 patients with definite MS by oligography, two questionnaires assessing fatigue (Fatigue Severity Scale, FSS) and daytime sleepiness (Epworth Sleepiness Scale, ESS), MRI and pulmonary function tests. A total of six patients had either an elevated FSS and/or an elevated ESS. None of the six patients with an elevated FSS and/or ESS has an apnoea index > 5/hour. CT90 was normal in nine patients. We conclude that fatigue and daytime sleepiness in MS cannot be explained by nocturnal apnoeas or oxygen desaturations. The Fatigue Severity Scale should be integrated to the extended Barthel index, which is a new instrument for disability assessment in MS patients.
1997 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.