Background: Health Related Quality of Life (HRQoL) studies on children with chronic illness such as thalassaemia are limited. We conducted the first study to investigate if children with thalassaemia have a lower quality of life in the four dimensions as measured using the PedsQL 4.0 generic Scale Score: physical, emotional, social and role (school) functioning compared to the healthy controls allowing for age, gender, ethnicity and household income.
Methods: The PedsQL 4.0 was administered to children receiving blood transfusions and treatments at Hospital Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia using PedsQL 4.0 generic Scale Score. Accordingly, the questionnaire was also administered to a control group of healthy school children. Socio-demographic data were also collected from patients and controls using an interview schedule designed for the study.
Results: Of the 96 thalassaemia patients approached, 78 gave consent to be interviewed giving a response rate of 81.3%. Out of 235 healthy controls approached, all agreed to participate giving a response rate of 100%. The mean age for the patients and schoolchildren is 11.9 and 13.2 years respectively. The age range for the patients and the schoolchildren is between 5 to 18 years and 7 to 18 years respectively. After controlling for age and demographic background, the thalassaemia patients reported having significantly lower quality of life than the healthy controls.
Conclusion: Thalassaemia has a negative impact on perceived physical, emotional, social and school functioning in thalassaemia patients which was also found to be worse than the children's healthy counterparts. Continuing support of free desferal from the Ministry of Health should be given to these patients. More understanding and support especially from health authorities, school authorities and the society is essential to enhance their quality of life.