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Abstract

Objective

To determine whether quality of life in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) measured by the Short Form 36 (SF-36) changes over time and which patient- and disease-related factors influence such change.

Methods

SLE patients who had ≥6 SF-36 evaluations during followup were identified from a database. Outcomes were slopes of scores of the 8 SF-36 domains as well as the physical and mental component scores. Based on the direction of the slope, patients were designated as unchanged, improved, or worsened. Linear regression models were used to test the contribution of risk factors to slopes. Nonparametric tests were used to evaluate risk factors between patterns of clinical change.

Results

A total of 146 patients had ≥6 SF-36 evaluations in 1,047 visits over a mean ± SD period of 8.2 ± 1.1 years. During the interval, the majority of patients showed no change in the SF-36 domains and only a small minority demonstrated improvement. Physical and mental component scores were unchanged in 84.3% and 87.7% of patients whereas 4.1% and 7.5% improved, respectively. According to slopes of the domains and summary scores, only physical functioning demonstrated a significant decrease over time. There were no lupus disease features associated with decline in physical functioning except for the presence of fibromyalgia.

Conclusion

The SF-36 in SLE patients with established disease changed little over an 8-year period. Changes in the SF-36 were not affected by disease activity, steroids, or damage accumulation during the interval, but were affected by the presence of fibromyalgia.