Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Gulf War Syndrome

Overview

This pilot study is a two arm randomized, controlled clinical trial that evaluated whether a standardized Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) intervention reduces symptoms associated with Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) more effectively than treatment as usual. Fifty-five veterans meeting diagnostic criteria for Gulf War Syndrome were randomized to treatment as usual (TAU) or TAU plus an 8-week course of course of MBSR. Study measures were collected at baseline, immediate post-MBSR, and 6 months post intervention. Measures were obtained at equivalent time points for veterans randomized to TAU only. Following completion of all study activities, veterans randomized to TAU only had the opportunity to enroll in MBSR.

Full Title of Study: “A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Mindfulness Based Intervention for Gulf War Syndrome”

Study Type

  • Study Type: Interventional
  • Study Design
    • Allocation: Randomized
    • Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
    • Primary Purpose: Treatment
    • Masking: Single (Outcomes Assessor)
  • Study Primary Completion Date: December 2012

Detailed Description

A randomized controlled trial with two arms. 55 veterans meeting diagnostic criteria for Gulf War Syndrome were randomized to standard care or standard care plus an 8-week course of course of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Study measures were collected at baseline, immediate post-MBSR (within one week of completion of the MBSR class) and 6 months following completion of the MBSR course. Measures were obtained at equivalent time points for veterans randomized to usual care only. Following completion, veterans randomized to standard care only had the opportunity to enroll in MBSR.

This pilot study will whether there is sufficient evidence of benefit to warrant further study, and gathered data that will allow estimation of the sample size needed in future studies. We also obtained measures working memory and attention, in addition to patient self-report measures of symptoms, in order to provide additional assessment of whether MBSR is effective. This project is prerequisite to a larger study.

Interventions

  • Behavioral: Mindfulness-based stress reduction
    • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teaches mindfulness as a non-religious practice of self-observation and self-awareness. Kabat-Zinn developed MBSR in 1979 in response to a growing awareness that medical interventions were often inadequate at addressing chronic pain issues and restoring function and life satisfaction. He drew on his meditation and yoga training to develop this program as a complement to traditional medicine that could help patients live fully despite their chronic medical and psychiatric conditions. Through MBSR an individual’s emphasis shifts from a preoccupation with what is wrong to a growing appreciation for what is right and what can be built upon.

Arms, Groups and Cohorts

  • Experimental: Arm 1
    • Participants in this arm undergo the mindfulness training intervention through taking part in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course
  • No Intervention: Arm 2
    • Treatment as usual for Gulf War Syndrome symptoms (medications, psychotherapy, etc.)

Clinical Trial Outcome Measures

Primary Measures

  • The Short-form McGill Pain Questionnaire
    • Time Frame: 2 months
    • The Short-Form McGill Pain Questionnaire is a self-report 22-item measure that assesses various types of pain on a scale of 0 (none) to 10 (worst possible) experienced during the past week. Score ranges from a minimum of 0 to a maximum of 220; the higher the score, the worse the outcome.
  • The Short-Form McGill Pain Questionnaire
    • Time Frame: 8 months
    • The Short-Form McGill Pain Questionnaire is a self-report 22-item measure that assesses various types of pain on a scale of 0 (none) to 10 (worst possible) experienced during the past week. Score ranges from a minimum of 0 to a maximum of 220; the higher the score, the worse the outcome.
  • Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory – General Fatigue
    • Time Frame: 2 months
    • The Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory is a 20-item self-report measure of various types of fatigue. Each item is a statement, and the subject indicates how much, on a scale of 1 (yes, that is true) to 5 (no, that is not true), he or she agrees with the statement (e.g. “I feel very active.”) Scores range from a minimum of 20 to a maximum of 100; the higher the score, the worse the outcome.
  • Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory – General Fatigue
    • Time Frame: 8 months
    • The Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory is a 20-item self-report measure of various types of fatigue. Each item is a statement, and the subject indicates how much, on a scale of 1 (yes, that is true) to 5 (no, that is not true), he or she agrees with the statement (e.g. “I feel very active.”) Scores range from a minimum of 20 to a maximum of 100; the higher the score, the worse the outcome.
  • Cognitive Failures Questionnaire
    • Time Frame: 2 months
    • The Cognitive Failure Questionnaire is a 25-item self-report measure of cognitive difficulty during daily living in the past six months. Each item is a question indicating a situation involving a type of cognitive failure (e.g. “Do you find you forget why you went from one part of the house to another?”), and the subject indicates how often that happens to them, on a scale of 0 (never) to 4 (very often). Scores range from a minimum of 0 to a maximum of 100; the higher the score, the worse the outcome.
  • Cognitive Failures Questionnaire
    • Time Frame: 8 months
    • The Cognitive Failure Questionnaire is a 25-item self-report measure of cognitive difficulty during daily living in the past six months. Each item is a question indicating a situation involving a type of cognitive failure (e.g. “Do you find you forget why you went from one part of the house to another?”), and the subject indicates how often that happens to them, on a scale of 0 (never) to 4 (very often). Scores range from a minimum of 0 to a maximum of 100; the higher the score, the worse the outcome.

Secondary Measures

  • Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9)
    • Time Frame: 2 months
    • The Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) is a 9-item (with an additional 10th item if any of the previous 9 are endorsed) self-report measure of depression. Subjects are instructed to indicate how often, over the last 2 weeks, they have been bothered by each problem (e.g. “feeling tired or having little energy”), from “not at all” (0), to “nearly every day” (3). Scores range from a minimum of 0 to a maximum of 30; the higher the score, the worse the outcome.
  • Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9)
    • Time Frame: 8 months
    • The Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) is a 9-item (with an additional 10th item if any of the previous 9 are endorsed) self-report measure of depression. Subjects are instructed to indicate how often, over the last 2 weeks, they have been bothered by each problem (e.g. “feeling tired or having little energy”), from “not at all” (0), to “nearly every day” (3). Scores range from a minimum of 0 to a maximum of 30; the higher the score, the worse the outcome.
  • PTSD Symptom Severity Interview (PSSI)
    • Time Frame: 2 months
    • The PTSD Symptom Severity Interview (PSSI) is a 17-question interview that measures the severity of PTSD symptoms in the past month. The interviewing researcher asks the subject to respond to each question (e.g. “Have you had recurrent or intrusive distressing thoughts or recollections about the trauma?”) by indicating how often per week he or she experiences that symptom. For each item, “not at all” is scored as 0; “once per week or less/a little” is scored as 1; “2 to 4 times per week/somewhat” is scored as 2; and “5 or more times per week/very much” is scored as 3. Total scores range from a minimum of 17 to a maximum of 51; the higher the score, the worse the outcome.
  • PTSD Symptom Severity Interview (PSSI)
    • Time Frame: 8 months
    • The PTSD Symptom Severity Interview (PSSI) is a 17-question interview that measures the severity of PTSD symptoms in the past month. The interviewing researcher asks the subject to respond to each question (e.g. “Have you had recurrent or intrusive distressing thoughts or recollections about the trauma?”) by indicating how often per week he or she experiences that symptom. For each item, “not at all” is scored as 0; “once per week or less/a little” is scored as 1; “2 to 4 times per week/somewhat” is scored as 2; and “5 or more times per week/very much” is scored as 3. Total scores range from a minimum of 17 to a maximum of 51; the higher the score, the worse the outcome.
  • PROMIS Fatigue
    • Time Frame: 2 months
    • The self-report PROMIS Fatigue measure uses a maximum of 7 questions to assess fatigue symptoms over the past 7 days. Subjects respond to each question (e.g. “How often did you feel tired?) with the following scale: = never = rarely = sometimes = often = always Raw scores are converted to T-scores, which are standardized to a mean of 50. Scores above 50 indicate higher than average fatigue; scores below 50 indicate lower than average fatigue.
  • PROMIS Fatigue
    • Time Frame: 8 months
    • The self-report PROMIS Fatigue measure uses a maximum of 7 questions to assess fatigue symptoms over the past 7 days. Subjects respond to each question (e.g. “How often did you feel tired?) with the following scale: = never = rarely = sometimes = often = always Raw scores are converted to T-scores, which are standardized to a mean of 50. Scores above 50 indicate higher than average fatigue; scores below 50 indicate lower than average fatigue.
  • Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire
    • Time Frame: 2 months
    • The Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) measures five aspects of mindfulness: Observing, Describing, Acting with Awareness, Non-judging, and Non-reacting. It is a 39-item self-report questionnaire. Subjects respond to each statement (e.g. “I disapprove of myself when I have irrational ideas”) by indicating how often they agree with the statement on a scale of 1 (“never or very rarely true”) to 5 (“very often or always true”). Scores range from a minimum of 39 to a maximum of 195. Higher scores indicate greater levels of mindfulness.
  • Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire
    • Time Frame: 8 months
    • The Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) measures five aspects of mindfulness: Observing, Describing, Acting with Awareness, Non-judging, and Non-reacting. It is a 39-item self-report questionnaire. Subjects respond to each statement (e.g. “I disapprove of myself when I have irrational ideas”) by indicating how often they agree with the statement on a scale of 1 (“never or very rarely true”) to 5 (“very often or always true”). Scores range from a minimum of 39 to a maximum of 195. Higher scores indicate greater levels of mindfulness.

Participating in This Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

Chart Diagnosis of PTSD

Exclusion Criteria

  • any past or present psychiatric disorder involving a history of psychosis (schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, delusional disorder, psychotic disorder not otherwise specified, etc.)
  • Mania or poorly controlled bipolar
  • Current suicidal or homicidal ideation
  • Prior training in mindfulness meditation
  • Active substance abuse or dependence
  • Must not have had an inpatient admission for psychiatric reasons within the past month

Gender Eligibility: All

Minimum Age: 18 Years

Maximum Age: 80 Years

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted: No

Investigator Details

  • Lead Sponsor
    • US Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Sponsor
  • Overall Official(s)
    • David J Kearney, MD, Principal Investigator, VA Puget Sound Health Care System Seattle Division, Seattle, WA

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