Background: Despite numerous reports published since the early 1970s, it is frequently asserted that quality of life (QOL) outcomes of transplantation have seldom been investigated and/or that little is known about QOL. This view may have persisted due to lack of adequate cumulation and synthesis of existing data. We performed an exhaustive, quantitative literature review to determine the nature and degree of any QOL benefits associated with transplantation in adults.
Methods: All independent, peer-reviewed empirical, English-language QOL studies were retrieved for six areas of transplantation: kidney, pancreas/combined kidney-pancreas, heart, lung/combined heart-lung, liver, and bone marrow. Studies' findings were analyzed to determine whether the weight of evidence suggested that (a) QOL improved from pre- to posttransplant, (b) transplant recipient QOL was better than that of patient comparison groups, and (c) recipient QOL equaled that of healthy nonpatient samples.
Results: A total of 218 independent studies, evaluating a total of approximately 14,750 patients, were identified. The majority of studies demonstrated statistically significant (P<0.05) pre- to posttransplant improvements in physical functional QOL, mental health/cognitive status, social functioning, and overall QOL perceptions. The majority documented physical functional and global QOL advantages for transplant recipients relative to ill comparison groups. The studies did not indicate that recipient QOL in specific functional areas equaled that of healthy, nonpatient cohorts, although global QOL perceptions were often high.
Conclusions: Although transplantation may not restore to the patient the "normal" life he/she may once have had, convergent evidence from six areas of transplantation, a variety of study designs, and demographically diverse study cohorts suggests that there are distinct QOL benefits of transplantation. Future work is required to identify background and personal factors that influence the degree of QOL benefits that any individual patient realizes from transplantation.