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Eur J Neurol. 2018 Mar;25(3):512-518. doi: 10.1111/ene.13534. Epub 2018 Feb 2.

Muscle strength and motor function throughout life in a cross-sectional cohort of 180 patients with spinal muscular atrophy types 1c-4.

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Department of Neurology, Brain Centre Rudolf Magnus, University Medical Centre Utrecht, Utrecht University, Utrecht.
Department of Child Development and Exercise Centre, University Medical Centre Utrecht, Utrecht.
Department of Genetics, University Medical Centre Groningen, Groningen.
Department of Neurology and Child Neurology, Brain Centre Rudolf Magnus, University Medical Centre Utrecht, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.



Natural history studies in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) have primarily focused on infants and children. Natural history studies encompassing all age groups and SMA types are important for the interpretation of treatment effects of recently introduced survival motor neuron gene-augmenting therapies.


We conducted a cross-sectional study to investigate muscle strength, Hammersmith Functional Motor Scale (Expanded) score and the patterns of muscle weakness in relation to age and SMA type.


We included 180 patients with SMA types 1-4 in the age range 1-77.5 years with median disease duration of 18 (range 0-65.8) years. With the exception of the early phases of disease in which children with SMA types 2 and 3 may achieve new motor skills and show a temporary increase in muscle strength, cross-sectional data suggested that declining muscle strength and loss of motor skills over time are characteristic of all SMA types. Mean loss of strength was at least 1 point on the Medical Research Council score and 0.5 point on the Hammersmith Functional Motor Scale (Expanded) score per year. Trend lines compatible with deterioration of motor function and muscle strength started in childhood and continued into adulthood. The age at loss of specific motor skills was associated with disease severity. Triceps, deltoid, iliopsoas and quadriceps were the weakest muscles in all patients. Hierarchical cluster analysis did not show a segmental distribution of muscle weakness as suggested previously.


Progressive muscle weakness and loss of motor function are characteristic of all SMA types and all ages.


milestones; muscle strength; natural history; spinal muscular atrophy

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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