Despite being one of the most devastating diseases known, there is little evidence for diagnosing and managing patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Although specific therapy is lacking, correct early diagnosis and introduction of symptomatic and specific therapy can have a profound influence on the care and quality of life of the patient and may increase survival time. This document addresses the optimal clinical approach to ALS. The final literature search was performed in the spring of 2005. Consensus recommendations are given graded according to the EFNS guidance regulations. Where there was lack of evidence but consensus was clear we have stated our opinion as good practice points. People affected with possible ALS should be examined as soon as possible by an experienced neurologist. Early diagnosis should be pursued and a number of investigations should be performed with high priority. The patient should be informed of the diagnosis by a consultant with a good knowledge of the patient and the disease. Following diagnosis, the patient and relatives should receive regular support from a multidisciplinary care team. Medication with riluzole should be initiated as early as possible. PEG is associated with improved nutrition and should be inserted early. The operation is hazardous in patients with vital capacity <50%. Non-invasive positive pressure ventilation improves survival and quality of life but is underused. Maintaining the patients ability to communicate is essential. During the entire course of the disease, every effort should be made to maintain patient autonomy. Advance directives for palliative end of life care are important and should be fully discussed early with the patient and relatives respecting the patients social and cultural background.
Published: 1 December 2005
Journal: European Journal of Neurology, volume 12, issue 12, pages 921–938