Split Phenomenon of Fasciculation between Antagonistic Muscles in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: An Ultrasound Study

Can J Neurol Sci. 2023 May 15:1-9. doi: 10.1017/cjn.2023.62. Online ahead of print.


Objective: Paresis of muscle groups in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) tends to present split phenomena. We explored the split phenomenon of fasciculation in multiple antagonistic muscle groups in ALS patients.

Methods: One hundred and forty ALS patients and 66 non-ALS patients were included from a single ALS center. Muscle ultrasonography (MUS) was performed to detect fasciculation in elbow flexor-extensor, wrist flexor-extensor, knee flexor-extensor, and ankle flexor-extensor. Split phenomena of fasciculation between different antagonistic muscle groups were summarized, and the possible influence factors were analyzed through stratified analysis.

Results: The frequency of split phenomenon of fasciculation intensity was significantly higher than those of muscle strength (26.1% vs. 7.1% for elbow flexor-extensor, 38.3% vs. 5.7% for wrist flexor-extensor, 37.9% vs. 3.0% for knee extensor-flexor, and 33.6% vs. 14.4% for ankle flexor-extensor) (P < 0.01). For muscles with 0-1 level of muscle strength (the Medical Research Council, MRC, score), significance difference in mean fasciculation intensity was observed only in ankle flexor-extensor. For muscles with 2-5 level of muscle strength, significant dissociation of fasciculation grade was common, especially among patients with slow rapid progression rate and both upper and lower motor neuron (UMN and LMN) involvement. As for non-ALS patients, no significant difference was observed in fasciculation intensity between antagonistic muscles.

Conclusion: Split phenomenon of fasciculation between antagonistic muscles was common and relatively specific in ALS patients. Muscle strength, progression rate, and UMN involvement were influence factors of the split phenomenon of fasciculation intensity.

Keywords: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Fasciculation; Split phenomenon.