Study design: This study analyzed health-related quality-of-life measures and other clinical and questionnaire data obtained from the Maine Lumbar Spine Study, a prospective cohort study of persons with low back problems.
Objective: For persons with sciatica, back pain-specific and general measures of health-related quality-of-life were compared with regard to internal consistency, construct validity, reproducibility, and responsiveness in detecting small changes over a 3-month period.
Summary of background data: Data were collected from 427 participants with sciatica. Baseline in-person interviews were conducted with surgical and medical patients before treatment and by mail at 3 months.
Methods: Health-related quality-of-life measures included symptoms (frequency and bothersomeness of pain and sciatica) functional status and well-being (modified back pain-specific Roland scale and Medical Outcomes Study 36-item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36), and disability (bed rest, work loss, and restricted activity days).
Results: Internal consistency of measures was high. Reproducibility was moderate, as expected after a 3-month interval. The SF-36 bodily pain item and the modified Roland measure demonstrated the greatest amount of change and were the most highly associated with self-rated improvement. The specific and generic measures changed in the expected direction, except for general health perceptions, which declined slightly. A high correlation between clinical findings or symptoms and the modified Roland measure, SF-36, and disability days indicated a high degree of construct validity.
Conclusions: These measures performed well in measuring the health-related quality-of-life of patients with sciatica. The modified Roland and the physical dimension of the SF-36 were the measures most responsive to change over time, suggesting their use in prospective evaluation. Disability day measures, although valuable for assessing the societal impact of dysfunction, were less responsive to changes over this short-term follow-up of 3 months.