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Only neurologists can provide better care to ALS Patients: Study

Neurologists provide superior treatment to ALS patients, according to a recent PLOS One study. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease is a severe condition that impacts the nerve cells responsible for muscle regulation, resulting in muscle paralysis and difficulty speaking, swallowing, and ultimately breathing.

Researchers from the Barrow Neurological Institute, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg have discovered that ALS patients who are black, older, or socially disadvantaged people are less likely to see a neurologist. This discovery has raised concerns about equitable access to high-quality care.

Patients who have received treatment from neurologists are more likely to receive therapies recommended by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). These therapies, which include early feeding tube installation, non-invasive Ventilation and riluzole are improving ALS patients' quality of life and survival.

"This study underscores the significance of neurologist care for ALS patients, as well as the necessity of overcoming obstacles and delivering more equitable care," asserts Dr. Brad Racette, the senior author of the study and the Chair of Neurology at Phoenix's Barrow Neurological Institute. Dr. Brad Racette emphasises the severity of ALS, highlighting its restricted life expectancy, with an average survival of two years after diagnosis and only 10% of patients surviving beyond five years. Consequently, it is imperative to implement therapies that can enhance the quality of life and extend the lifespan.

The study analysed Medicare claims for 8,575 ALS cases diagnosed between 2009 and 2010. and 2014 and found that only 42.9% of patients visited a neurologist within five years of their diagnosis. The study included a plurality of non-Hispanic white patients, with an average age of 68.1 years. Slightly more than half of the patients were male.

Neurologists significantly increased the likelihood of patients receiving the recommended treatment. For instance, 19.2% of all Medicare enrollees have ALS underwent non-invasive ventilation, 26.7 percent received a feeding tube, and 15.3 percent filled a riluzole prescription. Neurologists significantly increased the likelihood of life-extending therapy for patients compared to those who did not see a neurologist.

The study also reveals a concerning disparity: black patients and those Residents in underprivileged areas are less likely to receive neurologist care than non-Hispanic white patients and those residing in more affluent areas. This discrepancy raises significant concerns regarding health equity. particularly in countries with ageing populations, where the prevalence of ALS is expected to increase.

Dr. Racette explains the reasons why early interventions are more effective in enhancing the quality of life and survival. The AAN has established evidence-based criteria that healthcare professionals must rigorously adhere to to. The researcher reported a dramatic difference in care between ALS patients treated by a neurologist and those who did not see a neurologist.

The study's results underscore the significance of policy and education initiatives to ensure that all ALS patients, regardless of their background, receive the highest quality of care as the population matures. "This is of critical importance as the aged population continues to increase; the treatment disparities presented here may continue to worsen without efforts to mitigate them. them, in particular for black and disadvantaged beneficiaries," according to Dr. Racette.

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