Background: Multidisciplinary chronic pain management programs have proliferated widely in recent decades. The clinical characteristics of patients attending these clinics are becoming the subject of increased research. Recent European data suggests that patients attending these clinics report very low quality of life.
Aims: The present study profiles an Australian population in terms of demographics, clinical characteristics and quality of life, as measured by the Short Form 36 Quality of Life Questionnaire (SF-36).
Methods: Data were collected prospectively from consecutive patients presenting to a multidisciplinary chronic pain clinic at a major Sydney metropolitan teaching-hospital. Cross-sectional analysis of demographic and clinical characteristics and quality of life were then undertaken.
Results: Descriptive analysis of demographics and clinical characteristics suggest a patient population group reporting significant pain severity and reduced quality of life. The comparison of SF-36 domain scores between clinic patients and Australian norm values indicates a greatly reduced score on all SF-36 domains for clinic patients. Pain clinic patients reported the most profound effect upon quality of life in the role physical, physical function and social function domains of the SF-36. Stepwise multiple regression indicated impaired coping ability and depressive disability as the most significant correlates of low quality of life.
Conclusion: Patients who attend chronic pain clinics are likely to report low quality of life with an inability to cope. These findings suggest that future intervention research should explore the impacts of behavioural and self-management interventions. Psychological distress and ability to cope could be used as indices of improvement.