To assess the association, at diagnosis, between amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and dementia in a large cohort of well-characterized Italian patients. We investigated the phenotypic profile of 1638 incident patients with definite, probable or laboratory-supported probable ALS, diagnosed from January 2009 to December 2013 in 13 Italian Referral Centers, located in 10 Italian Regions, and classified in two independent subsamples accounting for presence or not of dementia. The collected ALS features, including survival and other follow-up data, were compared between the two subgroups using a one-way analysis of variance and Chi-square test, as appropriate, logistic regression models and Kaplan–Meier survival analysis. Between-subgroup comparisons showed an older age at clinical observation (p = .006), at onset and at diagnosis (p = .002) in demented versus non demented ALS patients. After adjustment for these variables, diagnosis of dementia was significantly associated with higher odds of family history of ALS (p = .001) and frontotemporal dementia (p = .003) and of bulbar onset (p = .004), and lower odds of flail leg phenotype (p = .019) and spinal onset (p = .008). The median survival time was shorter in demented versus non-demented patients, especially in case of classical, bulbar and flail limb phenotypes and both bulbar and spinal onset. Our multicenter study emphasized the importance of an early diagnosis of comorbid dementia in ALS patients, which may have clinical impact and prognostic relevance. Moreover, our results may give further inputs to validation of ALS-specific tools for the screening of cognitive impairment in clinical practice.
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The authors thank all the collaborators of the ALS referral centers involved in the study.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflicts of interest
On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest. Outside this work, Dr. F. Trojsi perceived fees from Italfarmaco and Aisla and a grant from Novartis; Prof. A. Chiò fees from Biogen and Mitsubishi; Prof. M.R. Monsurrò a grant from Italfarmaco; Prof. G. Tedeschi grants from Purytra, Abbvie, Genzyme and Ministry of Health (RF-2011-02351193).
The study was performed in accordance with the ethical standards statement.
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