Impact of spinal cord dysfunction and obesity on the health-related quality of life of children and adolescents.

OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this study were: (1) to compare the health-related quality of life (HRQOL) of children and adolescents with mobility impairments due to spinal cord injury (SCI) and spina bifida (SB) to the HRQOL of children and adolescent controls without mobility impairments (CTRL); and (2) to examine the impact of of obesity on the HRQOL of these subjects.

METHODS: The Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (PedsQL) was administered to 42 SB, 71 SCI and 60 able-bodied subjects who were 8-20 years of age. Subjects were categorized as obese if their BMI exceeded the 95th percentile for age. Twenty-one CTRL, 26 SB and 26 SCI subjects were obese.

RESULTS: The SCI and SB subjects had significantly lower subscores than the control subjects on the physical (p < 0.001), emotional (p < .01), social (p < .001), and school (p < .001) domains of the PedsQL. The obese (CTRL) group had lower subscores on the physical (p < 0.001), social (p < 0.001), and psychosocial (p < 0.001) domains of the PedsQL as compared to the non-obese CTRL group, while there were no significant differences in subscores from the emotional and school domains. In contrast to the subjects without mobility impairment, there were no significant differences between the sub-scores of the obese and non-obese subjects with spinal cord dysfunction secondary to SCI or SB. The mean total PedsQL score of the non-obese control group (87.7 +/- 2.1) was significantly higher than the obese control group (75.2 +/- 3.4, p < 0.02), which in turn was significantly higher than the SCI group (63.7 +/- 2.2, p < 0.02), and the SB group (63.0 +/- 2.2, p < 0.02).

CONCLUSION: Patients with SCI and SB have significantly lower HRQOL than children and adolescents without mobility impairments. Whereas obesity significantly reduces the quality of life scores of adolescents without mobility impairments, it has no significant incremental effect on subjects with SCI or SB.