Study objectives: To analyze (1) the impact of a protocol of early respiratory evaluation of the indications for home mechanical ventilation (HMV) in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and (2) the effects of the protocol and of bulbar involvement on the survival of patients receiving noninvasive ventilation (NIV).
Design and setting: Retrospective study in a tertiary care referral center.
Patients: HMV was indicated in 86 patients with ALS, with 22 patients (25%) presenting with intolerance to treatment associated with bulbar involvement. Treatment with HMV had been initiated in 15 of 64 patients prior to initiating the protocol (group A) and in the remaining 49 patients after protocol initiation (group B).
Results: In group A, the majority of patients began treatment with HMV during an acute episode requiring ICU admission (p = 0.001) and tracheal ventilation (p = 0.025), with a lower percentage of patients beginning HMV treatment without respiratory insufficiency (p = 0.013). No significant differences in survival rates were found between groups A and B among patients treated with NIV. Greater survival was observed in group B (p = 0.03) when patients with bulbar involvement were excluded (96%). Patients without bulbar involvement at the start of therapy with NIV presented a significantly better survival rate (p = 0.03). Multivariate analysis showed bulbar involvement to be an independent prognostic factor for survival (relative risk, 1.6; 95% confidence interval, 1.01 to 2.54; p = 0.04). No significant differences in survival were observed between patients with bulbar involvement following treatment with NIV and those with intolerance, except for the subgroup of patients who began NIV treatment with hypercapnia (p = 0.0002).
Conclusions: Early systematic respiratory evaluation in patients with ALS is necessary to improve the results of HMV. Further studies are required to confirm the benefits of NIV treatment in patients with bulbar involvement, especially in the early stages.