Fasciculation differences between ALS and non-ALS patients: an ultrasound study

BMC Neurol. 2021 Nov 10;21(1):441. doi: 10.1186/s12883-021-02473-5.


Background: Fasciculation is an important sign for the diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Our study aimed to analyze the difference in fasciculation detected with muscle ultrasonography (MUS) between ALS patients and non-ALS patients with symptoms resembling ALS.

Methods: Eighty-eight ALS patients and fifty-four non-ALS (eight multifocal motor neuropathy, 32 chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy/Charcot-Marie-Tooth, and 14 cervical spondylopathy or lumbar spondylopathy) patients were recruited. MUS was performed on 19 muscle groups in cervical, lumbosacral, bulbar, and thoracic regions for each patient. The intensity of fasciculation was divided into five grades based on firing frequency and number in the involved muscle groups.

Results: The overall detection rates were 72.8% in ALS and 18% in non-ALS patients. The fasciculation grades (median [IQR]) were 2 (0-3) in ALS and 0 (0-0) in non-ALS patients (P < 0.001). Fasciculations were observed in four regions for ALS patients and primarily distributed in proximal limbs. Fasciculations in non-ALS patients were primarily low-grade and mostly distributed in distal limbs.

Discussion: The fasciculation grade was higher in ALS than non-ALS patients. The distribution pattern of fasciculation was different between ALS and non-ALS patients.

Conclusions: The fasciculation grade and distribution pattern detected with MUS could help distinguish ALS from non-ALS patients.

Keywords: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Diagnosis; Fasciculation; Peripheral neuropathy; Ultrasonography.

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis* / diagnostic imaging
  • Electromyography
  • Fasciculation / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging
  • Polyneuropathies*
  • Ultrasonography