Efficacy of supervised immersive virtual reality-based training for the treatment of chronic fatigue in post-COVID syndrome: study protocol for a double-blind randomized controlled trial (IFATICO Trial)

Trials. 2024 Apr 3;25(1):232. doi: 10.1186/s13063-024-08032-w.


Background: The treatment of persistent fatigue after COVID-19 infection is complex. On the one hand, it involves maintaining a sufficient level of physical and mental activity to counteract possible degenerative processes of the body and nervous system. On the other hand, physical and mental activities can also lead to worsening of symptoms. Therefore, the challenge in treating Post-COVID fatigue is to stimulate the body and central nervous system in a way that stimulates growth and improvement, but does not overtax individual physical and mental limits. Special training programs try to take these characteristics into account, but often reach their limits. A promising approach is offered by new fitness technologies based on immersive virtual realities that stimulate both body and brain while minimizing physical and psychological stress. The aim of this study is to investigate the efficacy of supervised immersive Virtual Reality (VR)-based activity training compared to conventional activity training for patients with Post-COVID-associated fatigue.

Methods: In a single centre, individually randomised, prospective, double-blind two-arm exploratory superiority trial with parallel group design, N = 100 patients with persistent fatigue after COVID-19 infection will be recruited. The intervention includes a supervised immersive neuromuscular training (12 sessions of 30 min over 6 weeks) based on a novel VR-exercise device. We will systematically compare the effects of this intervention on Post-COVID-associated fatigue with a supervised conventional activation program of comparable scope without an immersive environment. The primary outcome is the difference between groups in absolute change in the mean fatigue symptom severity measured on the Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS) from baseline to posttreatment assessment. Posttreatment assessment in both groups will be conducted by blinded outcome assessors. At three and six months afterwards, patients are sent self-report questionnaires for follow up. The main analysis will be based on the intention-to-treat principle.

Discussion: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first exploratory study on a supervised immersive neuromuscular training for the treatment of persistent fatigue after COVID-19 infection.

Trial registration: German register for clinical studies (ID: DRKS00032059) Prospectively registered on June 16th 2023. URL of trial registration.

Keywords: Chronic fatigue; Exercise; Immersive; Post-COVID; Virtual Reality.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • COVID-19* / complications
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic*
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Virtual Reality*