eLetters

639 e-Letters

  • Split weakness signs in ALS
     I note the clinical analysis of differential weakness in ALS in elbow flexion (biceps brachii) compared to elbow extension (triceps) reported by Khalaf et al.1 This is described as analogous to similar 'split' muscle weakness around the ankle joint and, particularly, as that found in flexor digitorum indicis (FDI) compared to abductor digit minim (ADM) in the hand in the disease. It should be remembered that, although characteristic of ALS, this differential pattern of weakness has repeatedly been found not to be unique to ALS, even from the first descriptions.2,3 As the authors, and Vucic in his editorial remark,1,4 the cause of this interesting pattern of weakness in ALS remains uncertain. The finding of an association between the pattern of weakness and increased excitability in the upper motor neuron system in ALS does not necessarily provide primary support for an upper motor neuron (UMN) causation.  Nonetheless this pattern of weakness must be important in the disease. It is worth remembering that differential susceptibility to neurogenic lower motor neuron weakness is also a characteristic feature of some peripheral neuropathies, e.g., the Charcot-Marie-Tooth syndromes. Furthermore, differential muscle weakness and atrophy is a characteristic finding that is important in clinical diagnosis in the myriad different genetically determined muscular dystrophies.5 Although the causation of this differential susceptibility of certain muscles in this la...
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  • Reply to: The Movement disorder associated with NMDAR antibody-encephalitis is complex and characteristic: an expert video-rating study

    We read with interest the description of the movement disorder manifestations in patients with N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antibody mediated encephalitis (NMDAR-AbE) by a panel of movement disorders experts (1). The authors conclude that the co-existence of dystonia, chorea and stereotypies within the same patient, variability in phenomenology within the course of a single day and evolution over time, are helpful pointers to the diagnosis of NMDAR-AbE and therefore early treatment. We agree with this conclusion. However, this analysis overlooks consideration of the distinctive, if not unique, phenomenology of the “classical” movement disorder of NMDAR-AbE (2).

    In our earlier description of this complex movement disorder we reported the presence of variable, complex, jerky semi-rhythmic bulbar and limb movements, associated with posturing and oculogyric crises, but in summarising the overall clinical syndrome we deliberately avoided conventional movement disorder terms because none captured the entire clinical picture (2). Classification of a movement disorder, particularly when complex, is guided by the most obvious, dominant or overwhelming clinical feature. The ‘classical’ movement disorder in NMDAR-AbE is complex but as acknowledged by the expert reviewers, is not typical of any of the movement disorder categories (1). Stereotypies are purposeless repetitive motor behaviours that occur when awake and are interrupted by a shift in attention or distraction. Dy...

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  • The complex NMDAR-antibody associated movement disorder is highly-distinctive

    We thoroughly enjoyed reading the comment on our paper which analysed expert ratings of the movement disorder associated with NMDAR antibody-encephalitis.1 Thompson et al’s elegant pathophysiological explanation provides an excellent framework of the most plausible neural structures involved in NMDAR-antibody encephalitis. Further, they note these movements can occur in semi-conscious patients, and this concurs well with the previous description of anti-gravity movements in the context of ‘status dissociatus’.2 A review of our 76 videos, revealed Thompson et al’s account of “variable, complex jerky semi-rhythmic movements….in the obtunded state” in 45 (59%) of cases. Therefore, this complex description was not present in almost half of patients. Furthermore, our recent clinical experiences note some NMDAR-antibody patients with abnormal movements but without obtundation: perhaps, given the known stepwise progression of many cases, this is a function of increasingly early disease recognition.3

    By contrast to Thompson et al, our published study design intentionally used conventional phenomenological terms to define the movement disorder associated with NMDAR antibody-encephalitis.1 This approach aimed to define a pragmatic method, available to all clinicians, which could identify and faithfully communicate this complex movement disorder, with the important aim of earlier disease recognition. The results identified a dominant set of recognised classifications – dyston...

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  • Models for predicting risk of dementia: improvement still needed

    Hou et al. are to be commended for an in-depth systematic review of currently available dementia risk models that quantify the probability of developing dementia, covering both studies on community-dwelling individuals as well as clinic-based MCI studies.1 One of the key conclusions was that “the predictive ability of existing dementia risk models is acceptable, but the lack of validation limited the extensive application of the models for dementia risk prediction in general population or across subgroups in the population.” Based on recent insights, we believe that the discriminative ability of existing dementia prediction models in the general population is currently not acceptable for clinical use.

    We recently validated four promising dementia risk models (CAIDE, ANU-ADRI, BDSI, and DRS).2 In addition to external validation of these models in the Dutch general population, we also sought to investigate how these models compared to predicting dementia based on the age component of these models only. We found that full models do not have better discriminative properties than age alone. As such, we would like to make three suggestions to establish a reliable dementia prediction model.

    First, prediction models typically only report model performance on the basis of a full model.1-4 For dementia risk, however, age plays a pivotal role. Therefore, any new model should compare its predictive accuracy to age alone.

    Second, the setting in which a prediction...

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  • Area postrema syndrome: another feature of anti-GFAP encephalomyelitis

    Dear Editor,

    We read with great interest the recent paper of Sechi et al. that describes 13 patients with anti-GFAP related myelitis and compares them with 41 patients with anti-AQP4 related myelitis.1 To date, very little data is available about anti-GFAP related disorders.2-3 Sechi et al. highlight some differences between the two entities to help clinicians differentiate them.1 One of these clinical differences relates to area postrema syndrome (APS). Indeed, it is well known that APS is a classical feature of neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders, particularly among anti-AQP4 positive patients.4 Sechi et al. report this syndrome as a prodromal event in 20% of anti-AQP4 related myelitis. Conversely, the authors do not report any case of APS preceding or accompanying myelitis related to anti-GFAP.1 Given these data, APS could be an indicator for ruling out anti-GFAP encephalomyelitis, particularly useful for centers that do not yet have access to biological testing for anti-GFAP Abs.
    However, we report the case of a 41-year-old woman who in April 2016 developed intractable nausea and vomiting lasting for five weeks and leading to 35 kilograms in weight loss. An extensive search for a digestive disease was negative, and no neurological explorations were performed. One month following the resolution of digestive symptoms, she developed mental confusion, diplopia, dysarthria, dizziness, bilateral blurred vision (with optic disc edema) and paraparesis. Brain...

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  • Comparison of fingolimod, dimethyl fumarate and teriflunomide for multiple sclerosis: when methodology does not hold the promise

    Dear Editor,

    We read with interest the article by Kalincik et al. [1] comparing fingolimod, dimethyl fumarate and teriflunomide in a cohort of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. The authors investigated several endpoints and performed various sensitivity analyses, and we commend them for reporting technical details in the online supplementary material. We, however, have some concerns about the design, analysis and reporting of the study.

    1. In the primary analyses, three separate propensity score models were developed to construct a matched cohort for each of the three pairwise comparisons. Supplementary Table 6 clearly indicates the existence of zero or low frequencies in some variables (e.g., most active previous therapy and magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] T2 lesions). Yet, those variables were used as covariates in the propensity score models, unsurprisingly resulting in extremely high point estimates and standard errors (SE; as reported in Supplementary Table 7). For example, teriflunomide was not the most active therapy for any patient in the dimethyl fumarate cohort (n=0 from Supplementary Table 6), but that category was nevertheless included in the propensity score model, leading to an unrealistic point estimate of 18.65 with SE of 434.5 (Supplementary Table 7). Even higher SEs (greater than 1000) are observed in the other propensity score models. Propensity scores estimated from these poorly constructed models were then used to cr...

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  • Response to: Comparison of fingolimod, dimethyl fumarate and teriflunomide for multiple sclerosis: when methodology does not hold the promise

    We thank Dr Platt and colleagues for their critical review of our work, especially of the methodology that we have used in this study. It is understandable that comparative studies of treatment effectiveness trigger constructive discussions among industry and academics. We also vehemently agree that rigorous methodology and cautious interpretation of results is mandatory, especially for analyses of observational data.1 2 Therefore, in this letter, we will provide additional clarifications in response to the concerns raised.

    We appreciate that the categories that are underrepresented in multivariable logistic regression models may lead to inflation of estimates of the corresponding coefficients and their variance. Such inflation would, however, result in an overly conservative matching rather than the opposite. Due to the use of a caliper, patients with an extreme propensity score can not be matched to patients within the bulk of the distribution of the propensity scores. Such patients were excluded from the matched cohorts.

    The issue of residual imbalance is important in any non-randomised comparative study. We acknowledge that the standardised mean difference in annualised relapse rates (ARR) between teriflunomide and fingolimod exceeded the nominal threshold of 20%. It is therefore reassuring that the sensitivity analyses, in which the residual imbalance fell below the accepted threshold of 20% (patients with prior on-treatment relapses, Cohen’s d 14%, and...

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  • EARLY DIAGNOSIS OF PROGRESSIVE MULTIFOCAL LEUKOENCEPHALOPATHY: A STILL UNRESOLVED CLINICAL CHALLENGE

    Dear Editor,
    We have read with great interest the work by Scarpazza et al that provided a longitudinal MRI evaluation of natalizumab-related Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (NTZ-PML) lesions in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients (1).
    Their central finding was the high percentage (78.1%) of patients, who eventually developed NTZ-PML, in whom highly suggestive lesions were already retrospectively detectable on pre-diagnostic MRI exams. Furthermore, the pre-diagnostic phase proved to be relatively long (150.8±74.9 days), with an estimated percentage increase of the lesions’ volume of 62.8% per month (1).
    Given the widely recognized crucial role of a timely NTZ-PML identification in reducing mortality and residual disability (1), these results present the neurological and neuroradiological communities with an important clinical challenge, prompting a major effort to ensure an early diagnosis of this condition.
    Although redefining the timing of MRI surveillance, with up to one brain MRI exam every 3-4 months for high-risk patients, appears as a justified strategy, we think that improving the accuracy of early identification of NTZ-PML is also mandatory.
    In our opinion, such achievement should be pursued using two complementary approaches: (i) a specific training addressed to neuroradiologists working in the field of MS, who should be aware of the relevance of even very small asymptomatic PML lesions and how to differentiate them from new M...

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  • Higher burden of common neurological diseases in women than in men: it is because women live longer!

    To the Editor,
    We read with interest the work from Licher et al. [1] in which the authors tried to quantify the burden of common neurological diseases (i.e. dementia, stroke and parkinsonism) in 12 102 individuals (6 982 women and 5 120 men) aged ≥ 45 years and free from these diseases at baseline. All these individuals were recruited between 1990 and 2016 into the prospective population-based Rotterdam Study. At the end of their analyzes, the authors concluded that one in two women and one in three men will develop dementia, stroke or parkinsonism during their lifetime, and that the risk for women to develop both stroke and dementia during their life is almost twice that of men [1].
    By reading the article from Licher et al. [1], we were extremely surprised by the fact that the authors did not consider the impact of the difference in life expectancies between men and women on their results and conclusions. This is particularly well underlined by the fact that the authors did not clearly precise the age structures of the two populations they studied [1]. In our view, this information is critical as, although the reasons for this difference are still debated and may probably be multi-factorial [2], it is well known that women live longer than men. This trend is confirmed by the 2018 World Health Statistics report [3] that estimates that in 2016, the life expectancies of men and women at birth were respectively 69.8 and 74.2 years at the international level. The...

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  • Author reply: Higher burden of common neurological diseases in women than in men

    Dear Editor,

    We thank Abat et al. for re-emphasizing an important interpretation of our work, namely that sex-differences in life-expectancy likely influenced the presented lifetime risks [1]. Indeed, in our paper we repeatedly discussed in several sections (for instance in the methods) that differences in life-expectancy between men and women could differentially affect their lifetime risk. It was for this reason that we consequently decided to analyze the data in a sex-specific manner while taking the competing risk of death into account in order to prevent potential overestimation.

    Abat et al. unfortunately also allege that we attributed the observed sex-differences in disease risk to sex-specific effects on a biological level. The authors have seemingly missed our discussion at length arguing that observed differences in lifetime risk may be primarily attributed to the effects of differences in life-expectancy between men and women: “Apart from a longer life-expectancy in general, these findings may be explained by smaller differences in life-expectancy between men and women in the Netherlands (1.8 years), compared with the USA (4.8 years). With longer life-expectancy, individuals in this study simply had more time to develop these diseases in a timeframe with high age-specific incidence rates.”

    It seems thus that ours and Abat and co-authors’ interpretation of our findings is pretty much congruent, i.e. age, irrespective of sex, should be consid...

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