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Mechanical ventilation and tracheostomy in multiple sclerosis
  1. S J Pittock,
  2. B G Weinshenker,
  3. E F M Wijdicks
  1. Department of Neurology Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr E F M Wijdicks
 Department of Neurology, Mayo Clinic, W8B, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA;


Decisions on ventilatory support (VS) in multiple sclerosis (MS) are complex. All patients with MS requiring mechanical ventilation or tracheostomy since 1969 (22) at Mayo Clinic were reviewed. Seventeen had progressive (PMS; 11 secondary and six primary progressive) and one had relapsing remitting MS (RRMS). Four had neuromyelitis optica (NMO). Of those with PMS, all but two required a wheelchair or were bedbound before VS and survived a median of 22 months; 14 were mechanically ventilated and seven underwent subsequent lifelong tracheostomy; three had tracheostomy only. The indications (usually multiple) for VS in PMS patients were aspiration pneumonia, poor ventilation because of mucous plugging, mechanical failure, and airway control/protection for seizures and coma. The RRMS patient required mechanical ventilation for 10 days, with subsequent short-term tracheostomy during a brainstem exacerbation. Of the four patients with NMO one made a dramatic recovery after plasmapheresis. Compared with PMS, the NMO group had a shorter time from disease onset to VS, a longer duration of ventilation, and the three patients not treated with plasma exchange or steroids did worse. The prognosis for independent ventilation (±tracheostomy) was worst for patients with NMO, except for one patient who received plasma exchange, and better then expected for PMS, despite poor preventilation functional status.

  • CPAP, continuous positive airway pressure
  • EDSS, expanded disability status scale
  • MS, multiple sclerosis
  • NMO, neuromyelitis optica
  • PPMS, primary progressive multiple sclerosis
  • RRMS, relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis
  • SPMS, secondary progressive multiple sclerosis
  • mechanical ventilation
  • multiple sclerosis
  • tracheostomy
  • respiratory failure
  • neuromyelitis optica

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  • Competing interest: none declared