Background: Although it is recognized that burn survivors face a variety of challenges related to physical, psychologic and social late-effects of their injury, the impact of thermal injury on the lives of patients is not fully understood. To learn more about burn patient needs and to obtain information relevant to the design of clinical programs for treatment and aftercare, self-reports on how burn patients perceive their health and quality of life may be of significant value.
Methods: The generic health status (evaluated by SF-36) and overall quality of life (evaluated by the Quality of Life Scale [QOLS]) of 95 adult burn patients (total body surface area burned = 18.5 +/- 14.2% [mean +/- SD]; 82.1% men) were assessed 47.0 +/- 23.8 months postburn and compared with population norms.
Results: The burn patient generic health status was significantly poorer than expected from general population scores, with reduced scores in the Physical Function (p < 0.001), Role Physical (p < 0.01), General Health (p < 0.001), Social Function (p < 0.001), and Role Emotional (p < 0.001) domains of the SF-36. Despite their reduced health status, overall quality of life was perceived as good, with QOLS scores similar to those of the general population. Patients living alone, unemployed, having nonburn physical illness, psychologic disorders, chronic pain, or having sustained full thickness injuries were found to be at particular risk.
Conclusions: Forty-seven months postinjury, burn patients still experienced a significant reduction of generic health, reporting limitations related to both physical and psychosocial SF-36 domains. On the other hand, the patients as a group reported overall quality of life similar to that of the norm population, suggesting that they were able to feel satisfaction with their new situation of life. Identification of several risk factors for reduced generic health status and overall quality of life support the need for specialized multidisciplinary aftercare for burn patients.