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INTRODUCTION

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LEARNING OBJECTIVES

  1. Describe the epidemiology, risk factors, etiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, and general prognosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

  2. Compare and contrast the El Escorial diagnostic criteria for ALS.

  3. Differentiate among impairments related to lower motor neuron pathology, upper motor neuron pathology, and bulbar impairments.

  4. Discuss the medical and health care management of individuals with ALS.

  5. Outline a framework for rehabilitation for individuals with ALS.

  6. Describe the components of the physical therapy examination for individuals with ALS.

  7. Describe the role of the physical therapist in the management of an individual with ALS and the factors that influence intervention options.

  8. Compare and contrast overwork damage and disuse atrophy as it relates to ALS.

  9. Summarize the literature related to exercise and ALS.

  10. Describe considerations that must be taken into account when designing an exercise program for the individual with ALS.

  11. Discuss problems commonly seen in individuals with ALS and the physical therapy interventions for these common problems.

  12. Determine the anticipated goals and expected outcomes for an individual with ALS based on physical therapist examination findings.

  13. Design an intervention program for the individual with ALS based on the physical therapist examination findings.

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Motor neuron diseases (MND) include a heterogeneous spectrum of inherited and sporadic (no family history) clinical disorders of the upper motor neurons (UMNs), lower motor neurons (LMNs), or a combination of both1 (Table 17.1). Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is the most common and devastatingly fatal MND among adults. ALS is characterized by the degeneration and loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord, brainstem, and brain, resulting in a variety of UMN and LMN clinical signs and symptoms.2

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Table Graphic Jump Location
Table 17.1Motor Neuron Disorders
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EPIDEMIOLOGY

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It is estimated that 30,000 individuals in the United States have ALS at any one time and 15 cases are diagnosed every day. Except in a very few high-incidence areas, such as Guam and the Kii Peninsula of Japan (geographical foci, Western Pacific form of ALS), the overall incidence of ALS has been reported to be in the range of 0.4 to 2.4 cases per 100,000, with the incidence increasing with each decade of life, until at least the seventh decade. The prevalence of ALS has been reported to be 4 to 10 cases per 100,000.3,4,5,6,7

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Although ALS can ...

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