Health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in adulthood is an important outcome measure for patients diagnosed with juvenile or adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. In the May 16, 2018 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, a cross-sectional study of 1,187 Swedish patients with scoliosis by Diarbakerli et al. reveals patient-reported HRQOL outcomes at an average follow-up of approximately 18 years. Using the Scoliosis Research Society-22r (SRS-22r) and the EuroQol 5-Dimensions (EQ-5D) instruments, the authors analyzed outcomes among those who had been untreated (n = 347), brace-treated (n = 459), or surgically treated (n = 381) in accordance with standards at the time of diagnosis.
The surgically treated group had significantly lower scores in the SRS-22r domains of function and self-image, compared with the scores in those domains among the other two groups. According to Daniel J. Sucato, MD, who commented on the study, those findings “most likely reflect the various effects of the surgical procedure, including the stiffness imparted by the arthrodesis of the spine,… stiffness of the soft tissues, and the presence and awareness of implants and a surgical incision.” Diarbakerli et al. also found that untreated patients did not report a decrease in HRQOL with age.
Interestingly, patients treated surgically had higher SRS-22r satisfaction-domain scores than brace-treated patients, even though overall SRS-22r and EQ-5D scores were lower among surgically treated patients than brace-treated patients. For spine surgeons, one key finding was that “a more caudal extent of fusion may be one of the most important characteristics that negatively affects quality of life” in patients undergoing scoliosis surgery.
With its large number of patients and long-term, patient-focused outcomes, this study generally corroborates findings from previous, smaller studies. But, as Dr. Sucato points out in his commentary, “the brace and surgical groups had treatments that were current at the time but not relevant today, especially as they involved the use of first-generation techniques and instrumentation.”