Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Chronic fatigue syndrome and long covid

Chronic fatigue syndrome and long covid: individualisation, not compartmentalisation

BMJ 2021; 374 doi: (Published 28 July 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;374:n1863
  1. Russell S Malcolm, specialty doctor
  1. Centre for Integrative Medical Training, Tayport, UK
  1. russell.malcolm{at}

Newman’s investigation of chronic fatigue syndrome and long covid supports the development of specialised multidisciplinary support for patients with long covid.1 But compartmentalisation of a problem like chronic fatigue syndrome can sometimes miss the point.

Dysregulated systems, by their nature, cannot be manipulated into functionality, so the clinical modelling of a system disturbance is often best undertaken by a clinician with dedicated expertise in multisystem assessment who can pull the “hard” and “soft” data together.

Specialised teams, such as the fatigue clinic at the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine, routinely individualise chronic fatigue syndrome cases to a high level of detail. In the absence of objective data, the use of advanced and holistic history taking can explore the factors that perpetuate the clinical state.

The “forensic” part of the inquiry searches for the symptomatic features of pathophysiological change, hypothalamic dysregulation, or ongoing immunological disturbance. The physical and functional inquiry is then contextualised by an empathic and holistic psychosocial survey.

Each patient has a unique combination of perpetuating factors in chronic fatigue syndrome and long covid, so treatment approaches should also be individualised to a high degree. This level of individualisation is not always possible using a compartmentalised method of assessment.


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