Statistical methods can help researchers answer various healthcare-related questions, such as ‘How does the disease progress?’, ‘How much does the risk of developing a particular disease vary between different population groups?’, ‘What is the level of effectiveness and safety of a drug?’ or ‘How do different treatments affect?’. Finding the answer to these questions is the key to identifying and treating essential health issues.
For diagnosis and planning of treatment, statistics make disease prognosis and risk factors more comprehensible. Statistical models can help identify patients’ individual risk factors and guide the choice of treatment plan. At the same time, it allows us to better assess the effect of the response to treatment and any side effects.
Measuring health-related quality of life
Although medicine, as such, is not one of the fields of education and research at the University of Vaasa, we continuously cooperate with medical universities and healthcare professionals.
The Faculty of Medicine Postgraduate Education Unit of the University of Turku established a dependency on Vaasa to offer postgraduate education for physicians at Vaasa Central Hospital. The research group of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Vaasa has tutored students in their courses and assists Turku University Hospital in ongoing research projects.
– We have continuous research cooperation with the Turku University Hospital, including several projects, says Bernd Pape, Lecturer in Statistics.
"Health-Related Quality of Life Outcomes of Instrumented Circumferential Spinal Fusion for Pediatric Spondylolisthesis" is an example of ongoing collaborative research. The study investigated the quality of life of operated spondylolisthesis patients and compared it with age and gender-standardised controls.
The study is based on a statistical study, including a follow-up study of clinical, radiological and quality of life survey (SRS-24) outcomes in adolescents with spondylolisthesis.
The outcomes of the study were compared with age- and sex-matched controls.
The aim of the study was to assess the quality of life of spondylolisthesis patients before surgery and to evaluate the impact of surgery on it. The study also aimed to find out whether the quality of life of patients with spondylolisthesis after surgery was comparable to that of healthy controls.
Best treatment for patients
Spondylolisthesis refers to a situation where a vertebra slips forward in relation to the vertebra below it. or, most commonly, a stress fracture of the vertebra that has not ossified. Young active enthusiasts of certain sports, such as gymnasts, ballet dancers, footballers and ice hockey players, are over-represented among the patients. These sports have in common that adolescents tend to focus on one sport, resulting in a lot of repetitive and monotonous training.
The effect of spondylolisthesis on the quality of life depends on its severity and the intensity of the symptoms. In most cases, spondylolysis is low-grade and asymptomatic. Still, for a small part, it causes awkward and long-lasting pain or is significant enough to require surgical treatment.
Although few patients with spondylolisthesis undergo surgery, their treatment path is often long and their quality of life may be impaired for several years.
According to the study results, the health-related quality of life improves significantly after surgery but remains statistically lower than among healthy controls. Patients reported statistically significant improvement in pain and activity domains after spondylolisthesis surgery during the two-year follow-up period. However, the pain, self-image and function domains were still statistically significantly lower than with corresponding healthy controls.
– We showed that even with surgery, the quality of life does not reach the level of healthy controls, says Pape.
The study provides information for doctors and patients considering treatment, physiotherapy and possible surgery for spondylolisthesis. It supports estimates of the expected benefits and effects on quality of life among children (12–18 years in this study) diagnosed with spondylolisthesis.
Early effective treatment is essential to ensure that as few young people as possible develop spondylolisthesis.
– When we face health issues, we all hope to get the best possible treatment. This study provides valuable additional information in the search for the optimal treatment of one health problem.
Health-Related Quality of Life Outcomes of Instrumented Circumferential Spinal Fusion for Pediatric Spondylolisthesis – A Comparison With Age and Sex Matched Healthy Controls
The quality of life study of patients with spinal slip surgery is based on an ongoing research collaboration with the Turku University Hospital’s Clinical Research Centre, TurkuCRC.