UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Submaximal exercise testing with near-infrared spectroscopy in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients compared to healthy controls: a case–control study Miller, Ruth R; Reid, W D; Mattman, Andre; Yamabayashi, Cristiane; Steiner, Theodore; Parker, Shoshana; Gardy, Jennifer; Tang, Patrick; Patrick, David M


Background: Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) is a debilitating illness. Symptoms include profound fatigue and distinctive post-exertional malaise (PEM). We asked whether a submaximal exercise test would prove useful for identifying different patterns of tissue oxygen utilization in individuals with ME/CFS versus healthy subjects. Such a test has potential to aid with ME/CFS diagnosis, or to characterize patients’ illness. Methods: A case–control study of 16 patients with ME/CFS compared to 16 healthy controls completing a 3-min handgrip protocol was performed. Response was measured using near-infrared spectroscopy, resulting in measurements of oxygenated (O₂Hb) and deoxygenated hemoglobin (HHb) over wrist extensors and flexors. Changes in O₂Hb (delta (d)O₂Hb) and HHb (dHHb) absorbance between the first and last contraction were calculated, as were the force–time product of all contractions, measured as tension-time index (TTI), and ratings of perceived exertion (RPE). Results: Individuals with ME/CFS demonstrated smaller dO₂Hb and dHHb than controls. However, after adjusting for TTI and change in total hemoglobin (delta (d)tHb), differences in dO₂Hb and dHHb were reduced, with large overlapping variances. RPE was significantly higher for cases than controls, particularly at rest. Conclusions: Relative to controls, participants with ME/CFS demonstrated higher RPE, lower TTI, and reduced dO₂Hb and dHHb during repetitive handgrip exercise, although considerable variance was observed. With further study, submaximal exercise testing may prove useful for stratifying patients with a lower propensity for inducing PEM, and have the ability to establish baseline intensities for exercise prescription.

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