Tracheostomy mechanical ventilation in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: clinical features and survival analysis

J Neurol Sci. 2012 Dec 15;323(1-2):66-70. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2012.08.011. Epub 2012 Sep 16.


Background: Tracheostomy mechanical ventilation (TMV) is performed in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients with a respiratory failure or when the non-invasive ventilation (NIV) is no longer effective. We evaluated the clinical characteristics and survival of a cohort of tracheostomized ALS patients, followed in a single ALS Clinical Center.

Methods: Between 2001 and 2010, 87 out of 279 ALS patients were submitted to TMV. Onset was spinal in 62 and bulbar in 25. After tracheostomy, most patients were followed up through telephone interviews to caregivers. A complete survival analysis could be performed in fifty-two TMV patients.

Results: 31.3% ALS patients underwent tracheostomy, with a male prevalence (M/F=1.69) and a median age of 61 years (interquartile range=47-66). After tracheostomy, nearly all patients were under home care. TMV ALS patients were more likely than non-tracheostomized (NT) patients to be implanted with a PEG device, although the bulbar-/spinal-onset ratio did not differ between the two groups. Kaplan-Meyer analysis showed that tracheostomy increases median survival (TMV, 47 months vs NT, 31 months, p=0.008), with the greatest effect in patients younger than 60 at onset (TMV ≤ 60 years, 57.5 months vs NT ≤ 60 years, 38.5 months, p=0.002).

Conclusions: TMV is increasingly performed in ALS patients. Nearly all TMV patients live at home and most of them are fed through a PEG device. Survival after tracheostomy is generally increased, with the stronger effect in patients younger than 60. This survival advantage is apparently lost when TMV is performed in patients older than 60. The results of this study might be useful for the decision-making process of patients and their families about this advanced palliative care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / complications*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / mortality
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disease Progression
  • Enteral Nutrition / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Home Care Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Institutionalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiration, Artificial / methods*
  • Respiration, Artificial / statistics & numerical data
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / etiology
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / therapy*
  • Tracheostomy* / statistics & numerical data