Background & aims: Increasing interest is being given to health-related quality of life in chronic diseases. In cirrhosis, both physical functioning and mental well-being may be altered, but no study has investigated factors associated with a poor perceived health status.
Methods: We measured quality of life by Short Form-36 and Nottingham Health Profile questionnaires in 544 patients with cirrhosis. Data were compared with age- and gender-adjusted values of 2 random samples of the Italian population (more than 2000 subjects). Factors associated with poor perceived health status were identified by logistic regression.
Results: All domains of health-related quality of life, except pain, were altered in cirrhosis (by 9%-42%), mainly in younger patients. There were minor differences in relation to gender, whereas etiology had no effects. Severity of disease (Child-Pugh score) and, above all, muscle cramps were the factors most closely associated with poor health status perception. Self-rating of disease progression was associated with ascites and pruritus, whereas previous variceal sclerotherapy and the use of disaccharides had a protective effect. Most areas of daily life were affected by perceived health problems; this was mainly true for paid employment and sex life in men and home life and social life in women.
Conclusions: Quality of life is variably impaired in cirrhosis, also in uncomplicated patients. Non-life-threatening symptoms, such as muscle cramps, are of major concern. These data are the basis for longitudinal studies measuring the effects of therapy and procedures on patient-derived health outcomes.