No relevant impact of ambient temperature on disability measurements in a large cohort of patients with multiple sclerosis

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Abstract

Background and purpose:

Many patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) report a worsening of symptoms due to high ambient temperatures, but objective data about this association are rare and contradictory. The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of ambient temperature on standard clinical tests.

Methods:

We extracted the Symbol Digit Modality Test, Nine Hole Peg Test, Timed 25 Foot Walk (T25FW), Timed Tandem Walk, Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) and quality-of-life items on cognition, fatigue and depression from our clinical database and matched them to historical temperatures. We used linear mixed-effect models to investigate the association between temperature and outcomes.

Results:

A total of 1254 patients with MS (mean age, 42.7 years; 69.9% females; 52.1% relapsing–remitting MS, mean EDSS, 3.8) had 5751 assessments between 1996 and 2012. We observed a worsening in the T25FW with higher ambient temperatures in moderately disabled patients (EDSS ≥ 4) but not in less disabled patients. However, an increase of 10°C prolonged the T25FW by just 0.4 s. Other outcomes were not associated with ambient temperatures.

Conclusions:

Higher ambient temperature might compromise walking capabilities in patients with MS with a manifest walking impairment. However, effects are small and not detectable in mildly disabled patients. Hand function, cognition, mood and fatigue do not appear to be correlated with ambient temperature.

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