Introduction: Tuberculosis remains a major public health problem worldwide. In recent years, increasing efforts have been dedicated to assessing the health-related quality of life experienced by people infected with tuberculosis. The objectives of this study were to better understand the impact of tuberculosis and its treatment on people's quality of life, and to review quality of life instruments used in current tuberculosis research.
Methods: A systematic literature search from 1981 to 2008 was performed through a number of electronic databases as well as a manual search. Eligible studies assessed multi-dimensional quality of life in people with tuberculosis disease or infection using standardized instruments. Results of the included studies were summarized qualitatively.
Results: Twelve original studies met our criteria for inclusion. A wide range of quality of life instruments were involved, and the Short-Form 36 was most commonly used. A validated tuberculosis-specific quality of life instrument was not located. The findings showed that tuberculosis had a substantial and encompassing impact on patients' quality of life. Overall, the anti-tuberculosis treatment had a positive effect of improving patients' quality of life; their physical health tended to recover more quickly than the mental well-being. However, after the patients successfully completed treatment and were microbiologically 'cured', their quality of life remained significantly worse than the general population.
Conclusion: Tuberculosis has substantially adverse impacts on patients' quality of life, which persist after microbiological 'cure'. A variety of instruments were used to assess quality of life in tuberculosis and there has been no well-established tuberculosis-specific instrument, making it difficult to fully understand the impact of the illness.