The Association of the SF-36 Health Status Survey With 1-Year Socioeconomic Outcomes in a Chronically Disabled Spinal Disorder Population


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Abstract

Study Design.The Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) was administered to patients with chronic spinal disorders both before and after tertiary rehabilitation. The association of the SF-36 with various socioeconomic outcomes was then examined.Objectives.To assess the correlation of scores on SF-36 with treatment program completion and clinically meaningful 1-year socioeconomic outcomes.Summary of Background Data.There has been much interest in identifying variables that can predict which disabled workers with chronic spinal disorders will have good versus poor socioeconomic outcomes after tertiary rehabilitation. Results of previous research have indicated that psychosocial factors are better predictors of such outcomes than physical factors. A more recent trend in research is assessing health-related quality of life from the health care recipient’s perspective.Methods.The SF-36 was administered to a cohort (n = 146) of patients chronically disabled by spinal disorders before entry into a tertiary functional restoration program. Of this cohort, preprogram SF-36 scores and 1-year socioeconomic data were available for 128 program completers and 18 program noncompleters. The pre- and postprogram SF-36 scores of program completers for each of the outcome variables were compared.Results.Better scores on the preprogram SF-36 Social Functioning and Bodily Pain scales were found to be associated with successful completion of the treatment program. Postprogram SF-36 scores were more frequently associated with outcomes than were preprogram scores. Most SF-36 scores, especially the physical domain scales, were associated with the variables of return to work, work retention, and use of health care resources. The overwhelming majority of significant associations were between higher (i.e., better) SF-36 scores and “good” treatment outcomes (e.g., return-to-work).Conclusions.The large number of associations between SF-36 scores and outcome variables highlights the importance of assessing the health-related quality of life of patients, and supports the use of the SF-36 in accomplishing this task. Among the findings, perhaps the most significant was the value of assessing health-related quality of life, particularly the subjective physical components, after completion of a functional restoration program. Prediction of long-term socioeconomic outcomes is likely to be improved if assessment is conducted at the end of the treatment process. SF-36 is recommended for assessing general health status, and more spine-specific measures are recommended for assessing spinal pain and disability variables.

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