BACKGROUND: Fatigue and unintentional weight loss are two of the commonest symptoms experienced by people with advanced progressive illness. Appropriate interventions may bring considerable improvements in function and quality of life to seriously ill people and their families, reducing physical, psychological and spiritual distress.
OBJECTIVES:To conduct an overview of the evidence available on the efficacy of interventions used in the management of fatigue and/or unintentional weight loss in adults with advanced progressive illness.
METHODS: We searched the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR) for all systematic reviews evaluating any interventions for the management of fatigue and/or unintentional weight loss in adults with advanced progressive illness. We reviewed titles of interest by abstract. Where the relevance of a review remained unclear we reached a consensus regarding the relevance of the participant group and the outcome measures to the overview. Two overview authors extracted the data independently using a data extraction form. We used the measurement tool AMSTAR (Assessment of Multiple SysTemAtic Reviews) to assess the methodological quality of each systematic review.
MAIN RESULTS: We included 27 systematic reviews (302 studies with 31,833 participants) in the overview. None of the included systematic reviews reported quantitative data on the efficacy of interventions to manage fatigue or weight loss specific to people with advanced progressive illness. All of the included reviews apart from one were deemed of high methodological quality. For the remaining review we were unable to ascertain the methodological quality of the research strategy as it was described. None of the systematic reviews adequately described whether conflict of interests were present within the included studies.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) – we identified five systematic reviews (23 studies and 1502 participants); the pharmacological interventions were amantadine and carnitine. The non pharmacological interventions were diet, exercise and occupational therapy.
AUTHORS’ CONCLUSIONS:There is a lack of robust evidence for interventions to manage fatigue and/or unintentional weight loss in the advanced stage of progressive illnesses such as advanced cancer, heart failure, lung failure, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, motor neuron disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia and AIDS. The evidence contained within this overview provides some insight into interventions which may prove of benefit within this population such as exercise, some pharmacological treatments and support for self management.Researchers could improve the methodological quality of future studies by blinding of outcome assessors. Adopting uniform reporting mechanisms for fatigue and weight loss outcome measures would also allow the opportunity for meta-analysis of small studies. Researchers could also improve the applicability of recommendations for interventions to manage fatigue and unintentional weight loss in advanced progressive illness by including subgroup analysis of this population within systematic reviews of applicable interventions.
There is a need for standardised reporting of these symptoms and agreement amongst researchers of the minimum duration of studies and minimum percentage change in symptom experience that proves the benefits of an intervention. There are, however, challenges in providing meaningful outcome measurements against a background of deteriorating health through disease progression. Interventions to manage these symptoms must also be mindful of the impact on quality of life and should be focused on patient-orientated rather than purely disease-orientated experiences for patients.
This study analysed the treatment of fatigue in a number of conditions and concluded that we need to do better…….so no news there