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Non-invasive ventilation in motor neuron disease: current UK practice.

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  • 1University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne NE7 7DN, UK.



To evaluate the clinical application of non-invasive ventilation (NIV) in motor neuron disease (MND) in the UK.


We conducted a postal survey of the current clinical practice of all consultant neurologists in the UK, with a second mailing to non-responders after 6 weeks. The principal outcome measures assessed were: 1. the percentage of patients with MND receiving NIV, 2. access to a NIV service, 3. routine monitoring of respiratory function, and 4. influence of symptoms, respiratory function, rate of disease progression, level of disability and bulbar involvement on referral for NIV.


The response rate was 76%, 1719 new patients had been diagnosed in the preceding 12 months and a total of 2280 patients were under review. Of these, 126 were currently receiving NIV (5.5% of patients under review, estimated 2.6-3.5% of all MND patients). Most neurologists (172/265) had referred no patients for NIV in the preceding year, while three neurologists made 30% of all referrals nationally. Referral was based primarily on symptoms, and was influenced by the number of MND patients under review, level of disability, rate of disease progression and availability of a NIV service. Bulbar involvement was considered a relative contra-indication to NIV by 51% of responders.


In the UK, few patients with MND are treated with NIV. There is marked variation in clinical practice. This may reflect uncertainty about the role of non-invasive ventilation in MND, and emphasizes the need for a randomized controlled trial to assess the impact of NIV on quality of life and survival.

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