Background: Recent research suggests that patients' perceptions may be more important than objective clinical assessments in determining quality of life (QOL) for patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD).
Methods: We interviewed 165 hemodialysis patients from 3 sites using a QOL questionnaire that included the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS) and the McGill QOL (MQOL) scale, which includes a single-item global measure of QOL (Single-Item QOL Scale [SIS]). The MQOL scale asks patients to report their most troublesome symptoms. We also initiated the use of a Support Network Scale and a Spiritual Beliefs Scale.
Results: Mean patient age was 60.9 years, 52% were men, 63% were white, and 33% were African American. Patients had a mean treatment time for ESRD of 44 months, mean hemoglobin level of 11.8 g/dL (118 g/L), mean albumin level of 3.7 g/dL (37 g/L), and mean Kt/V of 1.6. Forty-five percent of patients reported symptoms. Pain was the most common symptom (21% of patients). There was an inverse relationship between reported number of symptoms and SWLS (P < 0.01), MQOL scale score (P < 0.001), and SIS (P < 0.001). The Spiritual Beliefs Scale correlated with the MQOL scale score, SWLS (both P < 0.01), and SIS (P < 0.05). The Support Network Scale score correlated with the MQOL Existential (P = 0.01) and MQOL Support (P < 0.01) subscales. No clinical parameter correlated with any measure of QOL, spiritual beliefs, or social support.
Conclusion: Symptoms, especially pain, along with psychosocial and spiritual factors, are important determinants of QOL of patients with ESRD. Additional studies, particularly a longitudinal trial, are needed to determine the reproducibility and utility of these QOL measures in assessing patient long-term outcome and their association with other QOL indices in larger and more diverse patient populations.