Sleep-Disordered Breathing in Patients with Motor Neurone Disease: One Size Does Not Fit all

Vinod Aiyappan, Peter Catcheside, Nick Antic, Graham Keighley-James, Jeremy Mercer, R. Doug Mcevoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Introduction: Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) in patients with motor neurone disease (MND) is normally attributed to hypoventilation due to muscle weakness. However, we have observed different patterns of SDB among MND patients referred for non-invasive ventilation, which do not appear to be explained by respiratory muscle weakness alone. Aim: The aim of this study was to examine the characteristics of SDB in MND. Methods: This is a retrospective analysis of sleep studies (using polysomnography [PSG]), pulmonary function tests, and arterial blood gases in MND patients referred to a tertiary sleep medicine service for clinical review. Sleep apnoeas were characterised as obstructive or central, and to further characterise the nature of SDB, hypopnoeas were classified as obstructive versus central. Results: Among 13 MND patients who had a diagnostic PSG, the mean ± SD age was 68.9 ± 9.8 years, BMI 23.0 ± 4.3 kg/m2, forced vital capacity 55.7 ± 20.9% predicted, and partial pressure of CO2 (arterial blood) 52.7 ± 12.1 mm Hg. A total of 38% of patients (5/13) showed evidence of sleep hypoventilation. The total apnoea/hypopnoea index (AHI) was (median [interquartile range]) 44.4(36.2-56.4)/h, with 92% (12/13) showing an AHI >10/h, predominantly due to obstructive events, although 8% (1/13) also showed frequent central apnoea/hypopnoeas. Conclusions: Patients with MND exhibit a wide variety of SDB. The prevalence of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is surprising considering the normal BMI in most patients. A dystonic tongue and increased upper-airway collapsibility might predispose these patients to OSA. The wide variety of SDB demonstrated might have implications for ventilator settings and patients' outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-138
Number of pages8
JournalNeurodegenerative Diseases
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • Respiratory insufficiency
  • Non-invasive ventilation
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Sleep
  • Motor neurone disease


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