Context: Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are more likely than healthy persons to develop neurally mediated hypotension (NMH) in response to prolonged orthostatic stress. Objective: To examine the efficacy of fludrocortisone acetate as monotherapy for adults with both CFS and NMH. Design: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted between March 1996 and February 1999. Setting: Two tertiary referral centers in the United States. Patients: One hundred individuals aged 18 to 50 years who satisfied Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria for CFS and had NMH provoked during a 2-stage tilt-table test. Eighty-three subjects had adequate outcome data to assess efficacy. Intervention: Subjects were randomly assigned to receive fludrocortisone acetate, titrated to 0.1 mg/d (n=50) or matching placebo (n=50) for 9 weeks, followed by 2 weeks of observation after discontinuation of therapy. Main Outcome Measure: Proportion of subjects in each group with at least a 15-point improvement on a 100-point global wellness scale. Results: Baseline demographic and illness characteristics between the groups were similar; CFS had been present for at least 3 years in 71%. Using an intention-to-treat analysis, 7 subjects (14%) treated with fludrocortisone experienced at least a 15-point improvement in their wellness scores compared with 5 (10%) among placebo recipients (P=.76). No differences were observed in several other symptom scores or in the proportion with normal follow-up tilt test results at the end of the treatment period. Conclusions: In our study of adults with CFS, fludrocortisone as monotherapy for NMH was no more efficacious than placebo for amelioration of symptoms. Failure to identify symptomatic improvement with fludrocortisone does not disprove the hypothesis that NMH could be contributing to some of the symptoms of CFS. Further studies are needed to determine whether other medications or combination therapy are more effective in treating orthostatic intolerance in patients with CFS.
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