Levels of fatigue appear to be stable over time in adults with cerebral palsy, a new study shows.
This finding suggests that care providers should monitor and discuss fatigue with young cerebral palsy patients to prevent symptoms later in life.
The study, “Fatigue in adults with cerebral palsy: A three-year follow-up study,” was published in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine.
Fatigue describes a sensation of reduced capacity to sustain body power output over time, and is often experienced as a feeling of tiredness, weakness, or lack of energy.
Fatigue has increasingly begun to be recognized as a common problem among adults with cerebral palsy. A previous study has reported that 41% of adults with cerebral palsy experience severe fatigue. However, such high prevalence has not been reported in children with cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy is not a progressive disease; still, many affected individuals tend to develop a number of secondary health conditions as they get older. In particular, young adults with cerebral palsy often describe fatigue as a new experience that emerges in adulthood.
There is still only limited understanding on the incidence and prevalence of fatigue in adults with cerebral palsy. Researchers say it is important to improve knowledge of the matter, especially because of the close association of severe fatigue with body pain, deterioration in functional skills, and low life satisfaction.
Therefore, a group of Dutch and Canadian researchers conducted a study to describe the course of fatigue over a three-year follow-up period in adults with cerebral palsy.
Fatigue was assessed using the Fatigue Impact and Severity Self-Assessment (FISSA) questionnaire, which has been validated for use in children and adults with cerebral palsy. Researchers also investigated whether there were any factors that could contribute to changes in fatigue levels over time, such as demographics or body composition.
The study included 23 adults with cerebral palsy who had different motor function capacities, from ambulatory to non-ambulatory as determined by the Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS).
At enrollment, the mean FISSA score for all participants was 84.0, which increased to 91.7 during follow-up. Higher total FISSA scores mean higher levels of fatigue.
Despite this variation, there were no statistically significant differences in FISSA score over time, even when analyzed according to participants’ GMFCS classification.
Also, the team found that overall fatigue levels were not associated with participants’ age, body mass, or abdominal obesity. Overall, they did not find any factors that could be predictive of fatigue change over time.
“We found that fatigue is more or less stable over time on a group level. [Still,] on an individual level, there can be important changes, both increases and decreases in fatigue-related symptoms,” researchers said.
These findings suggest that adults with cerebral palsy who experience fatigue are likely to remain fatigued in the future. “We would therefore advise care providers to monitor and talk about fatigue with adults with cerebral palsy,” the researchers said.
“To attenuate fatigue later in life, we would suggest starting the discussion with younger people with cerebral palsy,” they added.
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