The Benefit of Non-invasive Ventilation in Motor Neuron Disease

The Open Respiratory Medicine Journal 15 December 2020 REVIEW ARTICLE DOI: 10.2174/1874306402014010053



Motor Neuron Disease (MND) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder leading to respiratory muscle weakness with dyspnoea, morning headaches, orthopnoea, poor concentration, unrefreshing sleep, fatigue and daytime somnolence. Respiratory failure is the primary cause of death in those with MND.


Although guidelines suggest the use of non-invasive ventilation (NIV) in MND, there lacks clear guidance as to when is the optimal time to initiate NIV and which markers of respiratory muscle decline are the best predictors of prognosis. There have been a number of studies that have found a significant survival advantage to the use of NIV in MND. Similarly, in quality-of-life questionnaires, those treated with NIV tend to perform better and maintain a better quality of life for longer. Furthermore, studies also suggest that improved compliance and greater tolerance of NIV confer a survival advantage.

Results and Discussion:

Forced Vital Capacity (FVC) has traditionally been the main pulmonary function test to determine the respiratory function in those with MND; however, FVC may not be entirely reflective of early respiratory muscle dysfunction. Evidence suggests that sniff nasal inspiratory pressure and maximum mouth inspiratory pressure may be better indicators of early respiratory muscle decline. These measures have been shown to be easier to perform later in the disease, in patients with bulbar onset disease, and may indeed be better prognostic indicators.


Despite ongoing research, there remains a paucity of randomised controlled data in this area. This review aims to summarise the evidence to date on these topics.

Keywords: Motor neuron disease, Respiratory failure, Non-invasive ventilation, Pulmonary function tests, Forced vital capacity, Nasal.
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