Background: Frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) is a common cause of non-Alzheimer dementia, but its natural history and the factors related to mortality in affected patients are not well understood.
Methods: This retrospective, longitudinal study compared survival in FTLD (n = 177) with Alzheimer disease (AD; n = 395). Hazards analysis investigated the contribution of various demographic, neuropsychiatric, and neuropsychological variables and associated neurologic and neuropathologic findings.
Results: The frontotemporal dementia (FTD) subtype of FTLD progressed faster than AD (median survival from retrospectively determined symptom onset, 8.7 +/- 1.2 vs 11.8 +/- 0.6 years, p < 0.0001; median survival from initial clinic presentation, 3.0 +/- 0.5 vs 5.7 +/- 0.1 years, p < 0.0001). Survival was similarly reduced in the related conditions corticobasal degeneration and progressive supranuclear palsy. Survival in the semantic dementia subtype of FTLD (11.9 +/- 0.2 years from onset and 5.3 +/- 0.4 years from presentation), however, was significantly longer than in FTD and did not differ from AD. Hazards analysis to determine factors affecting survival in FTLD showed no effect of age at onset, sex, education, family history, or neuropsychiatric profile. Among neuropsychological measures examined, impaired letter fluency had a significant association with reduced survival. Associated ALS significantly reduced survival in FTLD. The presence of tau-positive inclusions was associated with the slowest progression.
Conclusions: Frontotemporal lobar degeneration progresses more rapidly than Alzheimer disease, and the fastest-progressing cases are those with the frontotemporal dementia clinical subtype, coexisting motor neuron disease, or tau-negative neuropathology.