Health-related quality of life in children with myelomeningocele: a systematic review of the literature

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Myelomeningocele (MMC) is the most complex congenital birth defect compatible with life. To provide the best health care for children with MMC, clinicians and researchers have to understand health and functional status of their patients as well as factors influencing their quality of life (QOL). The objective is to review studies that assess health-related quality of life (HRQOL) and determinants of HRQOL in children with MMC. The data sources include MEDLINE, along with reference lists of relevant reviews and included articles. Study eligibility criteria are quantitative studies that assess HRQOL using validated HRQOL instrument. Participants include children aged 0–18 years with diagnosis of MMC or spina bifida. Risk of bias was assessed using the Hayden system for non-randomized studies. Narrative synthesis and tables of results of HRQOL studies were conducted. Children with MMC have decreased HRQOL compared with normative population. Physical HRQOL is the most exposed aspect of QOL, while discrepancies in psychosocial domains vary by study. Many determinants of QOL have been found, and it is still not clear which determinant can be described as the strongest predictor. Psychosocial factors are the most consistent determinants of HRQOL.Heterogeneous study sample size, study designs, determinant and outcomes measures limited synthesis of findings. The HRQOL in children with MMC is complex and mediated by a number of associated medical problems, together with a variety of psychosocial and environmental factors. Future research is needed (a) on the relation between complex medical problems, functional independence, parent's and clinician's expectation and HRQOL in children and (b) to assess the differences in HRQOL by social environment and healthcare system.

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