Predicting loss of employment over three years in multiple sclerosis: clinically meaningful cognitive decline

Clin Neuropsychol. 2010 Oct;24(7):1131-45. doi: 10.1080/13854046.2010.511272. Epub 2010 Sep 8.


Cognitive dysfunction is common in multiple sclerosis (MS), yet the magnitude of change on objective neuropsychological (NP) tests that is clinically meaningful is unclear. We endeavored to determine NP markers of the transition from employment to work disability in MS, as indicated by degree of decline on individual tests. Participants were 97 employed MS patients followed over 41.3 ± 17.6 months with a NP battery covering six domains of cognitive function. Deterioration at follow-up was designated as documented and paid disability benefits (conservative definition) or a reduction in hours/work responsibilities (liberal definition). Using the conservative definition, 28.9% reported deteriorated employment status and for the liberal definition, 45.4%. The Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT) and California Verbal Learning Test, Total Learning (CVLT2-TL) measures distinguished employed and disabled patients at follow-up. Controlling for demographic and MS characteristics, the odds ratio of a deterioration based on a change of 2.0 on the CVLT2-TL was 3.7 (95% CI 1.2-11.4 and SDMT by 4.0 was 4.2 (95% CI 1.2-14.8), accounting for 86.7% of the area under the ROC curve. We conclude that decline on NP testing over time is predictive of deterioration in vocational status, establishing a magnitude of decline on NP tests that is clinically meaningful.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Disabled Persons
  • Employment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / psychology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Psychometrics
  • Statistics as Topic