Case Report

Respiratory Failure in a 70-Year-Old Veteran

Authors: Semaan G. Kosseifi, MD, Souheil Abdel Nour, MD, Thomas M. Roy, MD, Ryland P. Byrd, Jr., MD, Anita Alwani, MD


In Western countries the incidence of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is 1.89 per 100,000 per year and the prevalence is 5.2 per 100,000. The incidence of ALS is lower among African, Asian, and Hispanic ethnicities when compared to Caucasians. The mean age of onset for sporadic ALS is about 60 years and there is a slight male predominance (male to female ratio of 1.5 to 1). Approximately two thirds of patients with ALS have the spinal form of the disease with symptoms presenting in the extremities. Patients typically have evidence of both lower motor neuron degeneration (atrophy, weakness, and fasciculations) and upper motor neuron degeneration (spasticity, weakness, and hyperreflexia). Patients with limb onset ALS typically complain of focal muscle weakness and wasting. The symptoms may start either distally or proximally in the upper and/or lower limbs. Gradually spasticity develops in the weakened atrophic limbs, affecting manual dexterity and gait. Patients with bulbar onset ALS typically present with dysarthria and dysphagia for solid or liquids. Limb symptoms can develop simultaneously with bulbar onset. In the vast majority of patients, limb weakness will occur within 1–2 years of bulbar onset ALS symptoms. A case of bulbar and sporadic limb ALS in a 70-year-old veteran, presenting with right diaphragmatic paralysis and respiratory failure, is presented.

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