Supportive and symptomatic management of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Nat Rev Neurol. 2016 Sep;12(9):526-38. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2016.111. Epub 2016 Aug 12.


The main aims in the care of individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are to minimize morbidity and maximize quality of life. Although no cure exists for ALS, supportive and symptomatic care provided by a specialist multidisciplinary team can improve survival. The basis for supportive management is shifting from expert consensus guidelines towards an evidence-based approach, which encourages the use of effective treatments and could reduce the risk of harm caused by ineffective or unsafe interventions. For example, respiratory support using noninvasive ventilation has been demonstrated to improve survival and quality of life, whereas evidence supporting other respiratory interventions is insufficient. Increasing evidence implicates a causal role for metabolic dysfunction in ALS, suggesting that optimizing nutrition could improve quality of life and survival. The high incidence of cognitive dysfunction and its impact on prognosis is increasingly recognized, although evidence for effective treatments is lacking. A variety of strategies are used to manage the other physical and psychological symptoms, the majority of which have yet to be thoroughly evaluated. The need for specialist palliative care throughout the disease is increasingly recognized. This Review describes the current approaches to symptomatic and supportive care in ALS and outlines the current guidance and evidence for these strategies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / complications
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / therapy*
  • Disease Management*
  • Disease Progression*
  • Humans
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care* / organization & administration
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care* / standards
  • Patient Care Team* / organization & administration
  • Patient Care Team* / standards
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / etiology
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / therapy*
  • Terminal Care* / organization & administration
  • Terminal Care* / standards