Objectives: (1) To better outline quality of life outcomes in paediatric tracheostomy patients and their caregivers. (2) To establish whether quality of life outcomes for children are associated with those of their caregivers. (3) To establish whether quality of life outcomes were associated with the demographic and clinical variables of age, duration of time with a tracheostomy, number of comorbidities, and ventilator dependence.
Methods: Cross-sectional methodology was applied to gather quantitative data on quality of life outcomes, through PedsQL written questionnaires. These questionnaires covered social, emotional, physical and role/cognitive functioning. Caregivers also provided information on communication, worries, daily activities and family relationships. All children with a tracheostomy in situ, or recently decannulated, attending Sheffield Children's Hospital during the study period were eligible for inclusion.
Results: 25 families wished to participate, with patients ranging from 0.5 to 16.5 years (median 6.25). Both patients and caregivers attained lower scores than many other chronic diseases studied. Mean patient HRQoL was 56.2, with a physical health score of 52.4, psychosocial health score of 61.7. Caregiver HRQoL was 63.8, family functioning score was 68.1 and total family impact score was 61.6. Relative deficits were seen in caregiver social functioning (54.9), communication (56.3), worries (49.1) and daily activities (48.9), whilst role/cognitive functioning (73.8) and family relationships (79.6) subsections produced higher scores. Child psychosocial health showed moderate positive correlation (r = 0.492, p = 0.015) with both caregiver HRQoL and total family impact score. No correlation was identified between quality of life outcomes and demographic or clinical variables.
Conclusions: Disease burden appears to be particularly high for children and families with tracheostomies, especially when compared to other serious childhood disease. Lack of time and energy to complete daily activities, social isolation, worries, as well as difficulty communicating and perceived lack of understanding of their child's health were instrumental in reduced quality of life of caregivers. Anxiety about the future affected the majority of caregivers. This psychosocial impact may be lost in the busyness of delivery of medical care. We recommend provision of psychosocial support for these families as is now also recommended in other chronic childhood illness.