Questionnaire Recommended to Gauge Post-Op Disability Risk

Patients usually want to recover well and return to full function,but these aspects are rarely measured in perioperative research.

A recently-published study suggests that a patient questionnaire may facilitate clinicians gauge a patient’s risk for postoperative disability. 

“There is a partial disconnect between the goals of medical research and what patients view as a meaningful recovery following surgery,” Paul Myles, MD, lead study author and director of the department of anesthesia and perioperative medicine at Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia said in a press release. “Patients want to recover well and return to full function, back to their families, work and social activities – but these aspects have rarely been measured in perioperative research.  Disability-free survival, a combination of survival and a patient-reported assessment of disability measured with a validated questionnaire, is an ideal study outcome as it reflects the primary goal for most patients having major surgery, can improve quality and aid shared decision-making in surgical care.”

In the study, researchers asked 500 patients who had surgical procedures to complete the World Health Organization’s Disability Assessment Schedule 2.0 (WHODAS), a questionnaire developed to measure disability after trauma, stroke, spinal cord injury and in patients with chronic diseases. 

The questionnaire consists of 12 questions asking patients to rate, on a five-point scale, their perceived limitations in six major life domains: cognition; mobility; self-care; interpersonal relationships; work and household roles; and participation in society.  Questionnaires were completed at 30 days and three, six and 12 months after surgery. 

The researchers noted that the questionnaire proved to be a reliable instrument for measuring postoperative disability in a diverse surgical population and was well-accepted by patients, as the response rate was very high (88%).

Using the new instrument, researchers found high levels of postoperative disability, with up to 22% of patients experiencing moderate to complete disability following surgery.  There was a modest correlation between older patients and higher postoperative disability scores.  


1. Shulman MA, et al. Anesthesiology. 2015; DOI:10.1097/ALN.0000000000000586