Background: The prognostic implications of cognitive impairment in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are not established.
Objectives: To investigate the survival effect of the comorbid frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and to determine whether, in the absence of dementia, impairment in different cognitive domains affects outcome.
Methods: A prospective population-based study of incident cases of ALS in the Republic of Ireland included home-based neuropsychological assessments using age-, sex-, and education-matched controls. Four cognitive domains were evaluated: executive function, memory, language, and visuospatial skills.
Results: Mean age of the participants (n = 139) was 63.3 years; 61.2% were male and 35.3% had bulbar-onset ALS. Factors associated with shorter survival included age more than 60, severe disability at baseline, shorter delay to diagnosis, and early respiratory involvement. Comorbid FTD was associated with significantly shorter survival time (hazard ratio [HR] 2.67, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.04-6.85, p = 0.041). In patients with ALS without dementia, the presence of executive dysfunction was significantly associated with shorter survival. This was confirmed in a multivariate model that included age, delay to diagnosis, disease severity at baseline, education, and respiratory status (HR 3.44, 95% CI 1.45-8.18, p = 0.005). In the absence of executive dysfunction, single or multi-domain impairment in other cognitive domains had no significant effect on survival.
Conclusion: Comorbid frontotemporal dementia is a negative prognostic indicator. In patients with ALS without dementia, executive dysfunction, but not impairment in other cognitive domains, is an important negative prognostic indicator.