Patient education for people with multiple sclerosis-Associated fatigue: A systematic review

Maria Janina Wendebourg, Christoph Heesen, Marcia Finlayson, Björn Meyer, Jana Pöttgen, Sascha Köpke

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory and neurodegenerative disease often causing decreased quality of life, social withdrawal and unemployment. Studies examining the effect of pharmacological interventions demonstrated only minor effects, whereas non-pharmacological interventions as e.g. patient education programs have shown promising results. Objective We aim to systematically review the literature to determine the effect of patient education programs on fatigue in MS. Methods We conducted a comprehensive search in PubMed for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that evaluated patient education programs for MS-related fatigue. Interventions evaluating physical exercise and/or pharmacological treatments were not included. Meta-Analyses were performed using the generic inverse variance method. Results The search identified 856 citations. After full-Text screening we identified ten trials that met the inclusion criteria. Data of 1021 participants were analyzed. Meta-Analyses showed significant positive effects on fatigue severity (weighted mean difference -0.43; 95% CI -0.74 to -0.11) and fatigue impact (-0.48; -0.82 to -0.15), but not for depression (-0.35 (95% CI -0.75 to 0.05; p = 0.08). Essentially, we categorized patient education programs into two types: firstly, interventions with a focus on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and secondly, interventions that teach patients ways of managing daily fatigue. CBT-based approaches seem to generate better results in reducing patient-reported fatigue severity. Analysing CBT studies only, the pooled weighted mean difference for fatigue severity was -0.60 (95% CI; -1.08 to -0.11) compared to non-CBT approaches (-0.20; 95% CI; -0.60 to -0.19). Furthermore, interventions employing an individual approach seem to reduce fatigue more effectively than group-based approaches (pooled weighted mean difference for fatigue severity in face-To-face studies was -0.80 (95% CI; -1.13 to -0.47) compared to group-based studies with -0,17 (95% CI; -0,39 to 0,05). Longest follow-up data were available for 12 months post-intervention. Conclusion Overall, included studies demonstrated that educational programs and especially CBTbased approaches have a positive effect on reducing fatigue. Since fatigue is thought to be a multidimensional symptom, it should be treated with a multidimensional approach targeting patients' behavior as well as their emotional and mental attitude towards fatigue. However, the clinical relevance of the treatment effects i.e. the relevance for patients' daily functioning remains unclear and long-Term effects, i.e. sustainability of effects beyond 6 months, warrants further work. This review has been registered in the PROSPERO international prospective register of systematic reviews data base (Registration number: CRD42014014224).

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0173025
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 01.03.2017

Research Areas and Centers

  • Research Area: Center for Population Medicine and Public Health (ZBV)


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