Health-related quality of life after stroke: what are we measuring?

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As there is no single, accepted definition of health-related quality of life (HRQOL), it is assumed to be a broad, multidimensional construct referring to those aspects of people's lives that reasonably relate to their health. Although many scales are used to assess HRQOL, the operationalization of this construct within each tool is unclear. To clarify what each tool is measuring, this study reviewed eight scales commonly used to evaluate HRQOL after stroke. Two reviewers classified scale items from five generic and three stroke-specific scales within an established framework with nine dimensions; physical functioning, symptoms, global judgments of health, psychological well-being, social well-being, cognitive functioning, role activities, personal constructs, and satisfaction with care. All scales reviewed provide multidimensional assessment, but vary in number and combination of dimensions. All include assessment of physical functioning and most incorporate concepts, such as psychological well-being, social well-being, and role activities. One generic (Sickness Impact Profile) and two stroke-specific scales (Stroke Impact Scale and Stroke-Specific Quality of Life Scale) seemed most comprehensive. Evaluated against a common framework of dimensions, scales commonly used in the assessment of HRQOL after stroke provide varying multidimensional assessments of aspects of life function related to health. Whether any of these assessments are sufficient to describe HRQOL in its entirety is unclear.

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