The natural history of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Neurology. 1993 Jul;43(7):1316-22. doi: 10.1212/wnl.43.7.1316.


Using 42 strength and functional assessments recorded monthly, the natural history of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is described in 167 patients (98 men, 67 women) followed in five medical centers in the western United States. The mean age at onset was 57.4 years, and symptoms were present for 2.64 years before study entry. Although there was a highly variable rate of decline within the group of patients, there were no differences in rate of decline by age or gender. Older patients and women were weaker on entry. Forty-eight patients died during the study. The median survival was 4.0 years for the study cohort but 2.1 years for newly diagnosed cases. Decline in pulmonary function most closely correlated with death. Our results emphasize the importance of considering clinical variability in planning clinical trials. One possible strategy is to identify and stratify patients by rate of decline in pulmonary function since prospectively identifying homogeneous subgroups allows investigators to substantially reduce sample size in therapeutic trials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / mortality
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / physiopathology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Survival Analysis