Fatigue in out-patients with inflammatory bowel disease is common and multifactorial

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Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2012; 35: 133–141


Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) often complain of fatigue.


To investigate the prevalence and characteristics of fatigue among IBD out-patients in Scandinavia and to provide normative values for fatigue in IBD patients.


A cross-sectional study was conducted on 425 IBD patients from six out-patient centres in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Fatigue was measured using the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory. The patients were also screened for anaemia and iron deficiency. Each centre included approximately 5% of their IBD cohort. The patients were enrolled consecutively from the out-patient clinics, regardless of disease activity and whether the visit was scheduled. The fatigue analysis was stratified for age and gender.


Using the 95th percentile of the score of the general population as a cut-off, approximately 44% of the patients were fatigued. When comparing the IBD patients with disease activity to the IBD patients in remission, all dimensions of fatigue were statistically significant (P < 0.05). Being anaemic or iron deficient was not associated with increased fatigue. Being a male patient with ulcerative colitis treated with corticosteroids was a strong determinant for increased fatigue. The normative ranges for IBD fatigue were calculated.


Fatigue in IBD is common regardless of anaemia or iron deficiency. Fatigue in IBD is most marked for patients <60 years of age. Stratifying for gender and age is necessary when analysing fatigue, as fatigue is expressed differently between groups.

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