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Survival of 793 patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosed over a 28-year period.

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Department of Neurology, Istituto Nazionale Neurologico "Carlo Besta", Milan, Italy.


We reviewed retrospectively 793 consecutive patients discharged with ALS diagnosis between 1971 and 1998 to identify survival predictors. Vital status in July 2001 was known for all patients. Mean age at onset was 56 (SD 11.7) years and mean age at diagnosis was 57.4 (SD 11.5) years. Onset symptoms were bulbar in 20.8% of patients. The median survival time from symptoms onset was 2.9 years (95% CI 2.7-3.1). Survival from onset was 93% after one, 48% after three and 24% after five years. Median survival was shorter in patients with time between onset and diagnosis <12 months than in those diagnosed> 23 months; (2.1 years vs. 5.9 years; P<0.001). Patients with onset after age 65 had a 4.2 times greater risk of death than patients less than 40 years. Bulbar onset was associated with 1.4 times greater risk of death than spinal onset. Patients diagnosed after 1990 had longer median survival (3.3 years) than those diagnosed in 1971-1979 (2.4 years) (P<0.001). As expected, age, bulbar onset and short time from onset to diagnosis were independent predictors of survival. We also found a significant increase in survival over time, probably due to improved comprehensive treatment of ALS patients in Italy.

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