Objective: We performed a follow-up cohort analysis in order to delineate the correlation between pulmonary function (PF) and health-related quality of life (HRQL) in patients after ARDS.
Design: Follow-up cohort study.
Setting: A 20-bed ICU of a university teaching hospital.
Patients: A cohort of 50 long-term survivors of ARDS.
Measurements and results: Measurements of PF (FVC, FEV1, TLC, D(LCO)) and HRQL (SF-36 Health Status Questionnaire) were made 5.5 years (median value) after discharge from the ICU. Impairments in PF (defined as PF results below 80% of the predicted value) were frequent but generally mild. Twenty patients had a single PF impairment (with limitations in FEV1/FVC ratio in 12 patients being the most common), four patients had two (with D(LCO) and FEV1/FVC ratio impairment the most common) and three patients had pathologic results in three PF tests (FEV1/FVC ratio, TLC and capillary pO2 during exercise in one case, FVC, TLC and capillary pO2 during exercise in the second patient and FVC, TLC and D(LCO) in the third). Compared to normal controls, survivors of ARDS showed impairments in all SF-36 health dimensions (p < 0.001). Patients with multiple (> 1) PF impairments described the lowest HRQL with major limitations in all SF-36 categories (p < 0.037) including physical and mental summary scores (36.5 vs 46.9, p = 0.037 and 31.3 vs 51.4, p = 0.003) when compared to patients with no or only one PF impairment.
Conclusions: Long-term survivors of ARDS have a significant reduction in HRQL and the presence of multiple PF impairments is associated with maximal decrements in HRQL.