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J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2007 Feb;15(2):126-34.

The 36-item short form.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84108, USA.


The use of patient-derived, objective outcome measures has expanded substantially within the orthopaedic literature. Quality-of-life instruments are categorized as general health or as condition-specific questionnaires. The Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short Form (SF-36) is a general health-based survey of quality of life. It has been validated, is used widely across medical disciplines, and can be self-administered by the patient with reliability. The SF-36 has been implemented to define disease conditions, to determine the effect of treatment, to differentiate the effect of different treatments, and to compare orthopaedic conditions with other medical conditions. However, a bias of lower over upper extremity function has been demonstrated with the SF-36, as have limitations in assessment of certain physical activities of daily living as well as upper and lower limits on the detection of certain changes in quality-of-life status. Nevertheless, with an adequate knowledge of its effectiveness and limitations, the SF-36 can be a useful tool in many branches of orthopaedic surgery.

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