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Open Access Study protocol

Fatigue In Teenagers on the interNET - The FITNET Trial. A randomized clinical trial of web-based cognitive behavioural therapy for adolescents with chronic fatigue syndrome: study protocol. [ISRCTN59878666]

Sanne L Nijhof1*, Gijs Bleijenberg2, Cuno SPM Uiterwaal3, Jan LL Kimpen1 and Elise M van de Putte1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pediatrics, Wilhelmina Children's Hospital, University Medical Centre Utrecht, The Netherlands

2 Expert Centre for Chronic Fatigue, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, The Netherlands

3 Julius Centre for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Centre Utrecht, The Netherlands

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BMC Neurology 2011, 11:23  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-11-23

Published: 19 February 2011

Abstract

Background

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is increasingly recognized as a cause of disability and inactivity in adolescents in the Netherlands. CFS is characterized by unexplained fatigue lasting more than 6 months. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has proven to be effective. However, CBT availability for adolescents with CFS is limited and requires special therapeutic skills not always readily available. An alternative to the face-to-face CBT is FITNET, a web-based therapeutic program designed specifically for adolescents diagnosed with CFS, and their parents. This new CBT approach appeals to the modern youth, who grow up with internet as their main source of information. A web-based program offers the opportunity to lower thresholds for the acceptance and realization of healthcare. This treatment can be activated at any chosen time. The communication between patient and therapist can elapse asynchronously. If effective, this web-based program would greatly increase the therapeutic accessibility.

Methods/Design

A randomized clinical trial is currently conducted. One-hundred-forty adolescents aged 12-18 years diagnosed with CFS will be recruited and randomized to one of two groups: FITNET or usual care. After 6 months, the usual care group will have access to the FITNET program. Outcomes will be assessed at baseline, post intervention, and at 6 months follow-up. Primary outcome measures are school presence, fatigue severity, and physical functioning.

Discussion

The FITNET study is the first randomized clinical trial which evaluates the effect of web-based CBT versus usual care in adolescents with CFS. The intervention is based on a theoretical existing model of CBT for patients with CFS. The results of this study will provide information about the possibility and efficacy of web-based CBT for adolescents with CFS and will reveal predictors of efficacy.

Trial registration

ISRCTN: ISRCTN59878666 and ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT00893438