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Original research
Prognostic value of weight loss in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a population-based study


Objective To determine the prevalence and prognostic value of weight loss (WL) prior to diagnosis in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Methods We enrolled patients diagnosed with ALS between 2010 and 2018 in a population-based setting. At diagnosis, detailed information was obtained regarding the patient’s disease characteristics, anthropological changes, ALS-related genotypes and cognitive functioning. Complete survival data were obtained. Cox proportional hazard models were used to assess the association between WL and the risk of death during follow-up.

Results The data set comprised 2420 patients of whom 67.5% reported WL at diagnosis. WL occurred in 71.8% of the bulbar-onset and in 64.2% of the spinal-onset patients; the mean loss of body weight was 6.9% (95% CI 6.8 to 6.9) and 5.5% (95% CI 5.5 to 5.6), respectively (p<0.001). WL occurred in 35.1% of the patients without any symptom of dysphagia. WL is a strong independent predictor of survival, with a dose response relationship between the amount of WL and the risk of death: the risk of death during follow-up increased by 23% for every 10% increase in WL relative to body weight (HR 1.23, 95% CI 1.13 to 1.51, p<0.001).

Conclusions This population-based study shows that two-thirds of the patients with ALS have WL at diagnosis, which also occurs independent of dysphagia, and is related to survival. Our results suggest that WL is a multifactorial process that may differ from patient to patient. Gaining further insight in its underlying factors could prove essential for future therapeutic measures.

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