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Neurology. 2003 Mar 11;60(5):813-9.

Prognosis in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a population-based study.

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Department of Dental Public Health Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, USA.



Accurate information on prognosis of ALS is useful to patients, families, and clinicians.


In a population-based study of ALS in western Washington, the authors assembled a cohort of 180 patients with incident ALS between 1990 and 1994. Information on potential prognostic factors was collected during an in-person interview. Patients also completed the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 36 (SF-36). Vital status through December 1999 was known for all patients.


Median survival was 32 months from onset of symptoms and 19 months from diagnosis. The 5-year survival after diagnosis was 7%. Older age and female sex were strongly associated with poor survival. In multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression models, factors significantly and independently associated with a worse prognosis included older age, any bulbar features at onset, shorter time from symptom onset to diagnosis, lack of a marital partner, and residence in King County. Recursive partitioning identified age, time from symptom onset to diagnosis, and marital status as the strongest predictors of survival. Good summary scores for physical health on the SF-36, but not for mental health, were significantly associated with longer survival than poor scores.


These findings are consistent with other population-based studies of ALS and confirm its pernicious nature. Older age, female sex, any bulbar features at onset, short time from symptom onset to diagnosis, lack of a marital partner, and disease severity are key prognostic factors. Serial measurement of severity would likely improve predictions.

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