What does end stage in neuromuscular diseases mean? Key approach-based transitions

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Purpose of review

To revise the definition of end stage in the setting of neuromuscular disease (NMD), to understand the implications for the patient, family and healthcare team, and to address the obstacles involved in the lack of definition.

Recent findings

Unlike several conditions such as cancer, kidney or liver disease, the literature reveals no clear definition or categorization for NMD. Many articles mention end stage without defining it. Many years ago an expert consensus panel defined it based on functional criteria (forced vital capacity values and hypercapnic events). Only for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/motoneurone disease has a wider criteria been proposed. As a consequence, the management of this heterogeneous group of disorders is often fragmented compared with the well organized palliative care program for cancer patients.


Better end-stage NMD definitions should help to identify the goals of care, but a broad range in time and intensity of deterioration make a valid definition difficult for end-stage NMD. Respiratory care, life-prolonging therapies, and structured care planning should be seen as complementary rather than dichotomous. This article emphasized the relevance of an integrated approach through the whole trajectories of NMD patients considering key transitions.

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