5 years ago

The path to specialist multidisciplinary care in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: A population- based study of consultations, interventions and costs

Sinead Maguire, Charles Normand, Padhraig Ryan, Orla Hardiman, Alice Vajda, Miriam Galvin, Caoifa Madden, Mark Heverin

by Miriam Galvin, Padhraig Ryan, Sinead Maguire, Mark Heverin, Caoifa Madden, Alice Vajda, Charles Normand, Orla Hardiman


Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a devastating neurological condition that requires coordinated, multidisciplinary clinical management. ALS is prone to misdiagnosis as its signs and symptoms may be non-specific, which may prolong patients’ journey to multidisciplinary ALS care.


Using chart review and national register data, we have detailed the journey of a national cohort of ALS patients (n = 155) from the time of first symptom to presentation at a multidisciplinary clinic (MDC). Key milestones were analysed, including frequency of consultations, clinical interventions, and associated economic cost.


A majority of patients was male (60%), 65 years of age and over (54%), and had spinal onset ALS (72%). Time from onset of first symptoms to ALS diagnosis was a mean of 15.1 months (median, 11). There was a mean interval of 17.4 months (median 12.5) from first symptoms to arrival at the MDC, and a mean of 4.09 (median, 4) consultations with health care professionals. Electromyography and nerve conduction studies were among the most common interventions. Direct referral by a general practitioner (GP) to a neurologist was associated with reduced cost, but not reduced diagnostic delay. Bulbar ALS was associated with shorter time from symptom onset to diagnosis. Neurologist consultation in the first three consultations was associated with lower costs prior to the ALS clinic attendance but not a shorter time from first symptom to final diagnosis. Mean cost prior to attending the MDC was €3,486 per patient.


Expedited referral to the multidisciplinary ALS clinic would have reduced costs by an estimated €2,072 per patient. Development of a standardised pathway with early referral to neurology of patients with suspected symptoms of ALS could limit unnecessary interventions and reduce cost of care.

Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179796

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