Health Questionnaires Can Help to Predict ‘Hard Outcomes’ Like Survival in MS Patients, Study Says

Joana Fernandes, PhD avatar

by Joana Fernandes, PhD |

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Patient questionnaires can be sensitive to signs of disease progression and worsening in neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis just as they are in other diseases, helping doctors to better predict clinical outcomes in patients, a study reports.

Particularly, the study found that MS patients with higher scores on a specific disease questionnaire were nearly six times more likely to die within 10 years than those with lower scores, and that mortality risk also jumped among people whose scores rose on a second taking of same questionnaire.

But the researchers cautioned that their study, titled “Patient-reported outcomes and survival in multiple sclerosis: A 10-year retrospective cohort study using the Multiple Sclerosis Impact Scale–29” and published in the journal PLoS Medicinewas not a tool for predicting mortality but a way to help patients be more active participants in their care.

“Our research shows that by answering a set series of questions, patients can have an important role in predicting long-term prognosis in diseases like MS, and that these types of questionnaire should be used by doctors to get a better idea of the patient’s health,” Joel Raffel, study’s first author, from the Imperial College London, United Kingdom, said in a university news release written by Ryan O’Hare.

“We hope that using patient-reported outcomes like these more and more will mean a shift towards empowering patients,” he added. “They will be able to provide their own data, so rather than the doctor telling the patient how they are doing, it’s the other way around.”

Among tools often used in the clinic are patient-reported outcomes; that is, questionnaires for patients that focus on their disease and treatment. But while these questionnaires have many uses, from screening for symptoms or evaluating treatment response to improving communications, they are often under-utilized when people have MS or other neurological diseases, “in part because it is not clear if PROs [patient-reported outcomes] relate to ‘hard clinical outcomes’ like disability or mortality,” the team noted.

Researchers wanted to determine whether the Multiple Sclerosis Impact Scale–29 (MSIS-29) — a 29-question survey assessing quality of life and disease impact over the previous two weeks — might serve as a way of predicting a patient’s risk of death.

The questionnaire was completed by 2,126 people, registered with the MS Society Tissue Bank in the U.K., beginning in 2004. Of these, 872 patients repeated it one year later.

By 2014, the researchers reported that 264 of the original group of MS patients (12.4%) had died, and an evaluation revealed that MSIS-29 scores were associated with 10-year mortality risk regardless of age, gender, and disability score at the time the questionnaire was completed.

Indeed, patients with high scores on the MSIS-29 questionnaire, indicative of a poor quality of life, were 5.7 times more likely to die within 10 years than those whose scores were lower. The mortality risk rose further among people whose MSIS-29 score worsened between the first and second year of answering the questionnaire.

“Ideally, these questionnaires should be administered routinely, once a year in the clinic or online,” Raffel said. “This could help doctors to understand what issues the patients are facing and could also help to answer big research questions around prognosis and which of the available treatments we have for MS are working.”

The team believes that questionnaire responses, together with usual clinical assessment tools like imaging data through MRI scans, could help doctors and patients choose the best course of treatment.


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