The measurement of health-related quality of life (HRQOL) through generic outcome instruments is important for comparisons of populations across disease states and interventions. The growing number of questionnaires available has made selection and interpretation more difficult. Profile instruments such as the SF-36 and Sickness Impact Profile provide insight into various domains of health with established population norms. Preference-based measures, including the EQ-5D, Health Utilities Index, SF-6D, and QWB-SA are used to generate utility scores, which can be used for cost-effectiveness analysis and therefore have particular relevance in health policy. Both types of generic measures have been used in clinical trials in injured populations to assess the relative impact of interventions on quality-of-life. Comparisons of internal consistency and test-retest reliability across measures reveal minimal differences between instruments, and reported values are acceptable for group comparisons but insufficient for individual clinical use. There is a dearth of studies evaluating the validity of these measures in the trauma population, but available data suggest most of the available instruments are acceptable. Populations that may require special consideration are patients with head, spinal cord, and upper-extremity injuries. Practical issues to consider in selecting a questionnaire include time for completion, which ranges from less than 2 min for the EQ-5D to 20-30 min for the Sickness Impact Profile. Selection of the appropriate measure ultimately depends largely on the population to be studied and whether utility-estimation is desired.
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