Laryngeal electromyography in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2020 Jul;91(7):730-732. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2020-322910. Epub 2020 Apr 21.


Background: Bulbar involvement is a hallmark of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), but surprisingly very few studies have addressed the frequency, pattern and clinical relevance of laryngeal involvement in the disease.

Methods: Twenty-six patients with spinal-onset ALS underwent nasofibroscopy (NF), followed by laryngeal electromyography (LEMG). We also studied resting activity and motor unit potentials of the genioglossus and masseter muscles.

Results: Twenty-four patients presented neurogenic changes in at least one laryngeal muscle. There were fibrillation and/or fasciculation potentials associated with chronic neurogenic changes in the same muscle in 16 patients; of these, 9 had no alteration in the genioglossus. We found no patient with tongue neurogenic changes and normal LEMG. NF was abnormal in 14 patients; in the remaining 12, LEMG identified neurogenic changes in 11 of them.

Conclusion: LEMG is able to identify laryngeal denervation in patients with ALS, sometimes before clinical manifestations are noticed. This technique may be a useful diagnostic tool for selected patients with suspicion of ALS.

Keywords: ALS; EMG; motor neuron disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / physiopathology*
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laryngeal Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Neurons / physiology