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Medical abstract

Wednesday 30 January 2008

Health And Quality Of Life OutcomesA member has alerted us to an abstract that, to us, is an example of how not to write a medical article.

The article is about the quality of life in Fibromyalgia patients (we think):

Health And Quality Of Life Outcomes: Disability and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia (external link)

It’s hard for us to tell exactly what the article is about, as it is full of unintelligible and/or meaningless phrases such as:

“In this cross sectional study, explaining factors for disability were studied based on a regression analysis with gender…”

which leads us to wonder if the article is the result of something along the lines of a Random Medical Abstract Text Generator, or if it came straight out of the Baffling Scientific Phrases Handbook.

But our most likely thought is that it was probably the winner of the White Coat Owners Society’s monthly competition for Article Most Likely Not To Be Understood By The Public.

Our member who alerted us to the abstract was enraged that, throughout the course of the article, the parts of the text that could be understood seemed to neglect the human aspect of the human beings involved in the research.

We think that it is possibly the most objective article we have ever come across, as it seems to have removed any trace of humanity (i.e., what it means to be human – to think and to feel) from the research. The authors may as well have been discussing mice, or potatoes.

We applaud objective medical research (after all, if research wasn’t objective it would lose credibility within the scientific community), but we wouldn’t have minded the authors acknowledging that people were a part of the study.

Unofficial Impact FactorWhat makes this article even more intriguing for us is that it is accompanied by something called the “Unofficial Impact Factor: 1.61” (see picture).

We have no idea what that means – and are tempted to give the entire article our “Unofficial Care Factor: 0.00”.

We considered adding the entire abstract to the Humour section [no longer active] of our website, but then realised that we like humour to be understood.

If you’ve made it this far and actually do want to read the abstract, we present it in full below. But beware, if you do read it you may just find yourself with a headache afterwards.

Good luck…


Disability and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia

Jeanine A Verbunt, Dia HFM Pernot and Rob JEM Smeets

Health and Quality of Life Outcomes 2008, 6:8doi:10.1186/1477-7525-6-8
Published: 22 January 2008
Abstract (provisional)


Patients with fibromyalgia often feel disabled in the performance of daily activities. Psychological factors seem to play a pronounced disabling role in fibromyalgia. The objectives of the study are: Firstly, to investigate contributing factors for disability in fibromyalgia. Secondly, to study psychological distress in patients with fibromyalgia as compared to other nonspecific pain syndromes. And finally, to explore the impact of fibromyalgia on a patient's quality of life.


In this cross sectional study, explaining factors for disability were studied based on a regression analysis with gender, mental health, physical and social functioning as independent variables. For the assessment of disability in fibromyalgia the FIQ was used. The levels of psychological distress in patients with fibromyalgia, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and chronic low back pain (CLBP) were compared based on scores on the Symptom Checklist (SCL90). Quality of life of patients with fibromyalgia was compared with scores (SF36) of both patients with fibromyalgia and other health conditions as derived from the literature.


Disability in fibromyalgia seemed best explained by a patients mental health condition (beta=-0.360 p=0.02). The level of psychological distress was higher in patients with fibromyalgia as compared to patients with CRPS or CLBP (p<0.01). The impact of fibromyalgia on quality of life appeared to be high as compared to the impact of other health conditions.


Patients with fibromyalgia report a considerable impact on their quality of life and their perceived disability level seems influenced by their mental health condition. In comparison with patients with other pain conditions psychological distress is higher.

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