Background: Esophagectomy for cancer offers a chance of cure but is associated with morbidity, at least a temporary reduction in health-related quality of life (HRQL), and a 5-year survival of approximately 30%. This research evaluated how and whether HRQL outcomes contribute to surgical decision making.
Methods: A systematic review identified randomized trials and longitudinal and cross-sectional studies that assessed HRQL after esophagectomy with multidimensional validated questionnaires. Articles were independently evaluated by two reviewers, and the value of HRQL in clinical decision making was categorized in three ways: (1) the assessment of the quality of HRQL methodology according to predefined criteria; (2) the influence of HRQL outcomes on treatment recommendations and/or informed consent; and (3) the HRQL after esophagectomy for cancer in methodologically robust studies.
Results: Eighteen publications were identified, of which 16 (89%) were categorized as having robust HRQL design. Of these studies, 3 concluded that HRQL influenced treatment recommendations and 11 (including the former 3) informed patient consent. The remaining five papers were well designed, but the authors did not use HRQL to influence treatment recommendations or informed consent. After esophagectomy, patients report major deterioration in most aspects of HRQL with slow recovery.
Conclusion: HRQL outcomes are relevant to surgical decision making. Methods to communicate HRQL outcomes to patients are required to inform consent and clinical practice.