Background: Patients who survive acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) often report decreased general health-related quality of life (HRQOL) following hospital discharge. The extent to which this impairment is due to pulmonary or nonpulmonary causes is unclear. We describe the pattern of recovery of patients surviving ARDS to illuminate any relationships between lung spirometry values, pulmonary symptoms, and overall HRQOL.
Methods: Seventy-three survivors of ARDS were enrolled in a 12-month follow-up study as part of a phase III randomized, multicenter trial. Patients were contacted at 3, 6, and 12 months after enrollment to complete generic and disease-specific HRQOL questionnaires and have lung spirometry tests performed.
Results: For all domains of the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form-36 (SF-36) and the St. George's Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) at all time intervals, survivors of ARDS had significantly lower scores than age- and sex-matched population values. Over the 12-month follow-up period, we observed significant improvements to the overall Physical Component Score, but the Mental Component Score of the SF-36 and the SGRQ scores were not statistically different. Physical performance measures suggested that by 12 months, 57% had not returned to "normal activity." At 12 months, lung spirometry tests demonstrated mild abnormalities that were stable over time (64% and 49% had <80% predicted forced expiratory volume in 1 sec [Fev1] and forced vital capacity [Fvc], respectively). At 12 months, the forced expiratory volume in 1 sec correlated strongly with the physical function domain of the SF-36 (correlation coefficient = 0.601; p < .01) and moderately with all domains of the SGRQ (correlation coefficient = -0.36, -50; p < .01 in all cases). In addition, there were several strong to moderate correlations between the various domains of the SF-36 and SGRQ.
Conclusions: Survivors of ARDS have considerable respiratory symptoms and reduced HRQOL that is still prevalent at 12 mos following onset of injury. There are significant correlations between lung spirometry, pulmonary symptoms, and overall HRQOL, thus suggesting the acute lung injury/ARDS is causally contributing to the observed long-term outcome.