Caregiver Burden of Spinal Muscular Atrophy: A Systematic Review

Pharmacoeconomics. 2023 Mar;41(3):275-293. doi: 10.1007/s40273-022-01197-9. Epub 2022 Dec 14.


Objective: The objective of our study was to review, synthesize, and grade published evidence of caregiver burden of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a rare autosomal-recessive neuromuscular disease.

Methods: We searched Embase and PubMed for full-text articles published from inception up until 28 February, 2022, reporting results from studies of caregiver burden (i.e., negative aspects of providing informal care) in SMA. Two investigators independently screened article titles and abstracts for eligibility, reviewed full-text versions of selected records, extracted the data, and assessed risk of bias using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale. The evidence was synthesized to answer the following questions: (1) In which geographical settings have the caregiver burden of SMA been studied? (2) What aspects of the caregiver burden of SMA have been investigated? (3) What instruments have been used to measure the caregiver burden of SMA? (4) What is known of the caregiver burden of SMA? (5) How is the caregiver burden of SMA impacted by available disease-modifying drugs?

Results: We identified 15 publications, covering samples from a total of ten countries (i.e., Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Romania, Spain, Turkey, the UK, and the USA), reporting estimates of caregiver burden derived using data recorded via surveys or interviews. The most common instruments used to measure caregiver burden were the Zarit Caregiver Burden Interview, the EQ-5D-5L, and the PedsQL Family Impact Model. Caregiving in SMA was found to be associated with reduced health-related quality of life, impaired family function, depression and anxiety, strain, and stress, as well as a substantial impact on work life and productivity. Evidence of the impact of disease-modifying drugs on caregiver burden in SMA was scarce.

Conclusions: Caregivers to patients with SMA were found to be subject to a significant burden, including impaired health-related quality of life, reduced work ability and productivity, and financial stress, and many devote a substantial proportion of their time to provide informal care. Yet, the current body of literature is relatively scarce and more research is needed to better understand the clinical implications of informal caregiving in SMA and the relationship between caregiver burden and SMA types, as well as the impact of new disease-modifying treatments. Our synthesis will be helpful in informing clinical and social support programs (e.g., the routine screening of depression among caregivers, as well as financial support schemes to help manage the long-term day-to-day care) directed towards families caring for patients with SMA.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Caregiver Burden
  • Caregivers
  • Cost of Illness
  • Humans
  • Muscular Atrophy, Spinal* / therapy
  • Quality of Life*