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Dying of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: healthcare use and cost in the last year of life


Objective — To describe healthcare service utilization and cost for decedents with and without amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in the last year of life.

Methods — Using linked health administrative data, we conducted a retrospective, population-based cohort study of Ontario, Canada, decedents from 2013 to 2015. We examined demographic data, rate of utilization, and cost of healthcare services in the last year of life.

Results — We identified 283,096 decedents in Ontario, of whom 1,212 (0.42%) had ALS. Decedents with ALS spent 3 times as many days in an intensive care unit (ICU) (mean 6.3 vs 2.1, p < 0.001), and twice as many days using complex continuing care (mean 12.7 vs 6.0, p < 0.001) and home care (mean 99.1 vs 41.3, p < 0.001). A greater percentage of decedents with ALS received palliative home care (44% vs 20%, p < 0.001) and palliative physician home visits (40% vs 18%, p < 0.001) than decedents without ALS. Among decedents with ALS, a palliative physician home visit in the last year of life was associated with reduced adjusted odds of dying in hospital (odds ratio 0.65, 95% confidence interval 0.48–0.89) and fewer days spent in the ICU. Mean cost of care in the last year of life was greater for those with ALS ($68,311.98 vs $55,773.48, p < 0.001).

Conclusions — In this large population-based cohort of decedents, individuals with ALS spent more days in the ICU, received more community-based services, and incurred higher costs of care in the last year of life. A palliative care physician home visit was associated with improved end of life outcomes; however, the majority of patients with ALS did not access such services.



Zwicker J, Qureshi D, Talarico R, Bourque P, Scott M, Chin-Yee N, Tanuseputro P. Neurology. 2019; 93(23):e2083-93. Epub 2019 Oct 31.

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