Introduction: Adamowicz and colleagues recently proposed to use "a consistent definition of recovery that captures a broad-based return to health with assessments of both fatigue and function as well as the patients' perceptions of his/her recovery status" for patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Methods: A qualitative analysis of case definitions for Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and CFS and methods to assess the symptoms and clinical status of ME and CFS patients objectively.
Results: The criteria of CFS define a heterogeneous disorder. ME, often used interchangeably with CFS, is principally defined by muscle weakness, cognitive impairment etc., but above all post-exertional "malaise": a long-lasting increase in symptoms, e.g. muscle pain and cognitive deficits, after a minor exertion. The principle symptom of CFS however is "chronic fatigue". Since post-exertional "malaise" is not obligatory for CFS, only part of the CFS patients meet the diagnostic criteria for ME, while not all ME patients qualify as CFS patients. There are several accepted methods to assess characteristic symptoms and the clinical status of ME and CFS patients using objective measures, e.g. (repeated) cardiopulmonary exercise tests.
Conclusion: To resolve the debate about the clinical status, proposed effectiveness of therapies and recovery in ME and CFS, it is crucial to accurately diagnose patients using well-defined criteria for ME and CFS and an objective assessment of various typical symptoms, since subjective measures such as "fatigue" will perpetuate the debate.