Research Article: Standard error of measurement and smallest detectable change of the Sarcopenia Quality of Life (SarQoL) questionnaire: An analysis of subjects from 9 validation studies

Date Published: April 29, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Anton Geerinck, Vidmantas Alekna, Charlotte Beaudart, Ivan Bautmans, Cyrus Cooper, Fabiana De Souza Orlandi, Jerzy Konstantynowicz, Beatriz Montero-Errasquín, Eva Topinková, Maria Tsekoura, Jean-Yves Reginster, Olivier Bruyère, Ali Montazeri.


The Sarcopenia Quality of Life (SarQoL) questionnaire, a sarcopenia-specific patient-reported outcome measure, evaluates quality of life with 55 items. It produces 7 domain scores and 1 overall quality of life score, all between 0 and 100 points. This study aims to contribute to the interpretation of the SarQoL scores by calculating the standard error of measurement (SEM) and smallest detectable change (SDC) in a sample of subjects from 9 studies.

Subjects from 9 studies (conducted in Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, England, Greece, Lithuania, Poland and Spain) were included. The SEM, a measure of the error in the scores that is not due to true changes, was calculated by dividing the standard deviation of the difference between test and retest scores (SDdiff) by √2. The SDC, defined as change beyond measurement error, was calculated by multiplying SDdiff by 1.96. Bland-Altman plots were assessed for the presence of systematic errors.

A total of 278 sarcopenic subjects, aged 77.67 ± 7.64 years and 61.5% women, were included. The SEM for the overall SarQoL score ranged from 0.18 to 4.20 points for the individual studies, and was 2.65 points when all subjects were analyzed together. The SDC for the overall score ranged from 0.49 to 11.65 points for the individual studies, and was 7.35 points for all subjects. The Bland-Altman plots revealed no systematic errors in the questionnaire.

This study shows that, for individual subjects, a change in overall quality of life of at least 7.35 points (on a scale from 0 to 100) would have to be observed to confirm that a true change, beyond measurement error, has occurred. It also demonstrated that the SarQoL questionnaire is a precise instrument, with the observed scores within less than 3 points of the theoretical “true score”.

Partial Text

Sarcopenia, often described as the age-related loss of muscle mass and strength, and defined by the European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People (EWGSOP2) as “a progressive and generalised skeletal muscle disorder that is associated with increased likelihood of adverse outcomes including falls, fractures, physical disability and mortality”, has been the subject of increased scientific attention as its prevalence and consequences have become more known [1]. Sarcopenia is confirmed to be present when a patient is diagnosed with low muscle strength and low muscle mass. When low physical performance is also established, that person is diagnosed with severe sarcopenia [1]

This study combined data from 9 cohorts in 8 different countries that were established to test the psychometric properties of the SarQoL questionnaire after translation into the local language. The team behind the SarQoL questionnaire have made a concerted effort to widen the reach of the questionnaire by having it translated into a multitude of languages. To accomplish this, they have partnered with researchers from a host of countries and language groups, who were able and willing to undertake a translation of the questionnaire. The local teams responsible for the translations were also encouraged to carry out a validation study of the translation they produced, if feasible. A considerable number of them undertook this effort, although not all validations have been published. The researchers from 9 validation studies that had the necessary data for the current analysis were contacted and agreed to share their data. All the included studies obtained approval from their local ethics committees, and written informed consent from their participants.

In this study, values were obtained for the standard error of measurement and the smallest detectable change of the SarQoL questionnaire in a sample of 278 sarcopenic subjects hailing from 8 different countries and 9 different language-groups. The measurement error inherent to the questionnaire was found to be 2.65 points, and the minimum change needed to be confident that a real change in overall quality of life has occurred for an individual patient was 7.35 points. Systematic bias was further investigated with the method of Bland & Altman, and showed that there is no systematic bias for almost all domains (with domain 1 as the exception) and the overall score of the SarQoL questionnaire.

The current study, which analyzed a sample of 278 subjects from 9 validation studies, obtained a standard error of measurement of 2.65 points and a smallest detectable change of 7.35 points for the Overall score of the SarQoL questionnaire. These values can be applied in future longitudinal research to evaluate the veracity of measured changes.




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