Non-motor symptoms in motor neuron disease: Prevalence, assessment and impact

Emily Beswick*, Deborah Forbes, Micheala Johnson, Judith Newton, Rachel Dakin, Stella Glasmacher, Sharon Abrahams, Alan Carson, Siddharthan Chandran, Suvankar Pal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

People with motor neuron disease often experience non-motor symptoms that may occur secondary to, or distinct from, motor degeneration and that may significantly reduce quality of life, despite being under-recognized and evaluated in clinical practice. Non-motor symptoms explored in this population-based study include pain, fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, poor sleep, low mood, anxiety, problematic saliva, apathy, emotional lability, cognitive complaints and sexual dysfunction. People registered on the Clinical Audit Research and Evaluation of motor neuron disease platform, the Scottish Motor Neuron Disease Register, were invited to complete a questionnaire on non-motor symptoms and a self-reported Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Functional Rating Scale. The questionnaire comprised a pre-defined list of 11 potential non-motor symptoms, with the opportunity to list additional symptoms. A total of 120 individuals participated in this cross-sectional study, a 39% response rate of those sent questionnaires (n = 311); 99% of participants recruited (n = 120) experienced at least one non-motor symptom, with 72% (n = 120) reporting five or more. The symptoms most often reported were pain and fatigue (reported by 76% of participants, respectively). The symptoms reported to be most impactful were gastrointestinal issues (reported as ‘severe’ by 54% of participants who experienced them), followed by pain and problematic saliva (51%, respectively). Lower Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Functional Rating Scale scores, indicating more advanced disease and being a long survivor [diagnosed over 8 years ago; Black et al. (Genetic epidemiology of motor neuron disease-associated variants in the Scottish population. Neurobiol Aging. 2017;51:178.e11-178.e20.)], were significantly associated with reporting more symptoms; 73% of respondents were satisfied with the frequency that non-motor symptoms were discussed in clinical care; 80% of participants indicated they believe evaluation of non-motor symptom is important to include as outcomes in trials, independent of their personal experience of these symptoms. The preferred method of assessment was completing questionnaires, at home. The overwhelming majority of people with motor neuron disease report non-motor symptoms and these frequently co-occur. Pain, fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, sleep, mood, anxiety, problematic saliva, apathy, emotional lability, cognitive complaints and sexual dysfunction are prevalent. People with motor neuron disease who had worse physical function and those who were long survivors were more likely to report more symptoms. Where reported, these symptoms are frequent, impactful and a priority for people with motor neuron disease in clinical care and trial design.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfcad336
Number of pages17
JournalBrain Communications
Volume6
Issue number1
Early online date7 Dec 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • motor neuron disease
  • non-motor symptoms
  • prevalence
  • impact
  • survey

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