Measuring low-vision rehabilitation outcomes with the NEI VFQ-25

Joan A. Stelmack, Thomas R. Stelmack, Robert W. Massof

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. To evaluate the sensitivity of the National Eye Institute Visual Functioning Questionnaire-25 (NEI VFQ-25) to change in visual abilities after low-vision rehabilitation in two different Veterans Administration (VA) low-vision programs METHODS. Seventy-seven legally blind veterans from the Blind Rehabilitation Center (BRC) at Hines VA Hospital and 51 partially sighted veterans from the Visual Impairment Center to Optimize Remaining Sight (VICTORS) program at the Chicago Health Care Network, West Side Division, were administered the NEI VFQ-25 plus supplement in interview format at admission and discharge. Instructions for administration were modified to have study participants answer all the questions as if they were wearing glasses or contact lenses or were using low-vision devices. Interval measures of person ability and item difficulty were estimated from the patients' responses to 34 of the 39 items on the VFQ-25 plus supplement before and after rehabilitation, by the polytomous rating scale measurement model of Wright and Masters. RESULTS. In VICTORS patients, item order by difficulty before rehabilitation agreed with item order for BRC patients. Visual ability scales are used similarly by different patients with different degrees of low vision. Based on prerehabilitation person measure distributions, VICTORS patients were less disabled, as would be predicted by visual acuity, than were BRC patients. After rehabilitation, estimated item difficulty for 4 of the 34 items decreased significantly in both BRC and VICTORS patients. CONCLUSIONS. The present study demonstrates that the NEI VFQ-25 plus supplement can be used to measure the effects of low-vision rehabilitation; however, only 7 of the 34 items tested are sensitive to change after rehabilitation. Targeted activities, such as reading ordinary print, small print, and street signs are easier to perform for graduates of both programs after rehabilitation. The patients' visual ability also shows improvement in both BRC and VICTORS. Improvement in visual ability is independent of change in difficulty of targeted items. Although this was not a controlled clinical trial, the decrease in difficulty of targeted items may reflect the use of low-vision aids and training to make tasks easier. The change in visual ability may reflect positive outcomes of rehabilitation or may be the consequence of patients' overestimates of their functional ability at the time of discharge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2859-2868
Number of pages10
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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