Objective: Ten years ago, the authors reported on the outcome of their study investigating the degree of discomfort and pain in newborns with myelomeningocele (MMC), using the parameters of unbearable and hopeless suffering. In the current study, they investigated the quality of life, daily functioning, pain and fatigue, ability to communicate, and number of surgeries in the same cohort of patients. They subdivided their study population into severe (Lorber) and less severe (non-Lorber) cases and compared these cases with a healthy population (non-MMC group) and with each other.
Methods: The parents of 22 of 28 patients gave informed consent for this study. The KIDSCREEN-27 and PEDI-CAT (Pediatric Evaluation of Disability Inventory) were used to assess quality of life and daily functioning. Pain and fatigue were self-reported on a 10-point numeric rating scale. Communication and ambulation levels were determined using the Communication Function Classification System (CFCS) and the Hoffer ambulation scale. Using reference data from the KIDSCREEN-27 and PEDI-CAT, the authors created a healthy population comparison group.
Results: There was no significant difference in health-related quality-of-life (HRQOL) scores between Lorber and non-Lorber patients, except that school environment domain scores were lower in the Lorber group. When comparing the HRQOL of MMC patients with that of the non-MMC group, the physical well-being and parent relations and autonomy domains scored significantly lower. The daily functioning of MMC patients was lower on all domains of the PEDI-CAT compared with the non-MMC group. Lorber MMC patients scored lower on all domains of the PEDI-CAT when compared with non-Lorber patients. All patients were capable of communicating effectively; most patients (n = 18) were considered CFCS level I, and 4 patients were considered CFCS level II.
Conclusions: This study shows that MMC is a severe, lifelong condition that affects patients' lives in many domains. All the patients in this study are capable of effective communication, irrespective of severity of MMC. Overall, the data show that in newborn MMC patients, future unbearable suffering with respect to pain, mobility, cognition, and communication is hard to predict and may not always occur.
Keywords: congenital; follow-up studies; functional status; myelomeningocele; quality of life; spinal dysraphism.