Quality of life in persons with spinal cord injury: comparisons with other populations

J Neurosurg Spine. 2012 Sep;17(1 Suppl):29-37. doi: 10.3171/2012.6.AOSPINE1252.


Object: The aim of this study was to identify the quality of life (QOL) measures commonly used to assess patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) and to summarize studies using common QOL measures that have been validated in SCI populations to compare scores in persons with SCI with those in a control population.

Methods: A systematic search of PubMed was conducted to identify studies using common QOL measures in persons with SCI and those comparing scores for QOL measures in an SCI population with scores in other populations. The authors sought comparative studies utilizing QOL measures for which validity and reliability analyses had been done.

Results: Of 28 QOL measures found, validity and reliability studies had been conducted in patients with SCI for 5 measures. Twelve comparative studies compared QOL in SCI patients with QOL in healthy controls or in patients with other disabilities, or with normative data. The 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) and the short version of the WHOQOL (WHOQOL-BREF) were the most widely used QOL instruments. Patients with SCI had a decreased QOL as compared with that in healthy controls or normative data, with the most pronounced deficits in the domains of physical functioning and physical role limitations. In 3 studies, patients with tetraplegia had a lower physical domain QOL than did those with paraplegia. Overall, however, the impact of injury level and injury completeness on QOL after SCI remains unclear due to a lack of longitudinal studies.

Conclusions: The SF-36 and WHOQOL-BREF are validated instruments that should be considered for use in SCI QOL studies. Future analysis of deficits in QOL among patients with SCI would benefit from the development of a QOL instrument specifically targeted to SCI. Longitudinal studies to assess the impact of injury level and injury completeness on SCI QOL are also needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Psychometrics
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires