Fatigue is common in chronic health conditions in childhood, associated with decreased quality of life and functioning, yet there are limited data to compare assessment instruments across conditions and childhood development. Our objective was to describe fatigue assessment instruments used in children with chronic health conditions and critically appraise the evidence for the measurement properties of identified instruments.
Data sources included Medline, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, and PsycINFO (using the EBSCOhost platform). Study selection included quantitative assessment of fatigue in children with health conditions. Data extraction was as follows: (1) study design, participant and fatigue instruments, (2) measurement properties of fatigue instruments, (3) methodological quality of included studies, and (4) synthesis of the quality of evidence across studies for the measurement properties of fatigue instruments.
Twenty fatigue assessment instruments were identified (12 child reports, 7 parent reports, 1 staff report), used in 89 studies. Fatigue was assessed in over 14 health conditions, most commonly in children with cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome. Evidence for the measurement properties of instruments varied, and overall quality was low. Two fatigue instruments demonstrated strong measurement properties for use in children with diverse health conditions and children with cancer.
The review is limited to children younger than 18 years and results are specific to health conditions described, limiting generalizability of findings to other populations. Evidence for the measurement properties of fatigue instruments varied according to the population in which instruments were used and informant. Further evidence is required for assessment of fatigue in younger children, and children with particular health conditions.