Objectives: To establish survival in patients with pathologically confirmed frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and to determine whether clinical or pathologic subtype affects prognosis.
Methods: The authors reviewed the presenting clinical features of 61 patients with dementia and pathologically confirmed FTD studied in Sydney (n = 31) and Cambridge (n = 30) over a 10-year period. Data were available on time of symptom onset, diagnosis, institutionalization, and death. Cases were classified pathologically as tau-positive and tau-negative.
Results: Of the 61 patients with FTD, 26 presented with frontal variant (fvFTD), 9 with semantic dementia, 8 with progressive nonfluent aphasia (PNFA), 9 with associated motor neuron disease (FTD-MND), and 9 with corticobasal degeneration features. There was no difference between the groups in age at symptom onset (overall mean 58.5 +/- 7.8 years), but at diagnosis the PNFA (68.3 +/- 2.7) group was significantly older than the fvFTD (59.9 +/- 7.4) and FTD-MND (57.7 +/- 7.9) groups. The median survival from symptom onset and from diagnosis was 6 +/- 1.1 years (95% CI) for fvFTD and 3 +/- 0.4 years for FTD-MND. Survival across subgroups was equivalent except for the FTD-MND group, which had significantly shorter survival. Cases with tau-positive pathology had an older age at onset and a significantly better prognosis: median survival 9.0 +/- 0.9 years vs 5.0 +/- 1.1 years.
Conclusions: FTD is a malignant disorder with limited life expectancy. FTD-MND has the shortest duration both before and after diagnosis. Tau-positivity is associated with a more slowly progressive form of FTD.