Dynamics of impairment during and after treatment: the AMFES cohort.
This study investigates the dynamics of impairment during and after multidrug therapy treatment for the patient cohort of the prospective ALERT MDT Field Evaluation Study (AMFES). The impairment status was compared at intake, at release from treatment (rft), and at the time of the latest survey between 24 and 48 months after release from treatment (follow-up). The eye-hand-foot impairment score (EHF score), which is the sum of the WHO impairment grades of the eyes, hands, and feet, was used as tool for comparison. In all, 433 out of the 592 patients (224 PB and 209 MB) completed treatment in time and were assessed at release from treatment. The risk of getting impaired was 4% for the 113 PB and 21% for the 91 MB patients who were initially free from impairment. Out of the 111 initially impaired PB patients, 41% recovered or improved and 13% worsened in EHF score. For the 118 initially impaired MB patients, these figures were: recovery or improvement 43% and worsening 13%. Three hundred and twenty-three out of the 433 patients (158 PB and 165 MB) had a follow-up examination in between the next 24-48 months after rft. The risks of impairment at follow-up were 6% for the 79 PB and 18% for the 77 MB patients without impairment at rft. Out of the 79 PB patients with impairment at rft, 35% recovered or improved and 28% worsened. For the 88 impaired MB patients, these figures were: recovery or improvement 26% and worsening 27%. Patients showed a tendency to compensate EHF score improvement before rft by worsening after rft and vice versa. The first main conclusion is that the impairment status at intake was by far the most important determinant for future impairment. The second one is that the dynamics of impairment were less favourable after rft than before. Little is known about the long-term fate of leprosy patients with irreversible nerve damage and the associated risk of developing severe secondary impairment. Especially in this era of the leprosy elimination goal, we should give this accumulating patient group due attention in research and health policy agendas.