Purpose: The aim of this study was to assess the utility of clinical assessment of respiratory muscle weakness in MS.
Patients and methods: We studied 40 MS patients who performed pulmonary function tests using standard procedures and measures of respiratory muscle strength. Descriptive clinical indices included a history of detailed neurologic findings, including upper and lower extremity weakness, cerebellar signs, and evidence of cerebral lesions and other clinical signs including dependence in activities of daily living, shortness of breath, weak voice, dysarthria and dysphagia. We devised an index comprised of four clinical signs: the patient's report of difficulty in clearing pulmonary secretions and his report of a weakened cough, the examiner's observation of the patient's cough, and ability to count on a single exhalation.
Results: Mean values of TLC (95 percent +/- 14) VC (91 percent +/- 19), and RV (106 percent +/- 34) were normal. By contrast, MVV (68 percent +/- 20), PImax (74 percent +/- 27) and PEmax (51 percent +/- 22) were decreased. Stepwise multiple regression indicated that the best single predictor of expiratory muscle weakness was the index score; the combination of index score, upper extremity weakness, and maximal voluntary ventilation accounted for 60 percent of the variance in PEmax.
Conclusion: We conclude that clinical assessment is a better predictor of respiratory muscle weakness than spirometry and that a systematic clinical assessment supplemented by respiratory muscle assessment and MVV can uncover subtle respiratory muscle weakness in patients with MS.