Excess mortality among patients with multiple sclerosis in Denmark has dropped significantly over the past six decades: a population based study

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Abstract

Background

Lifetime expectancy in multiple sclerosis (MS) is reduced. Few studies have had sufficient follow-up or sufficient number of patients to assess if survival has improved with time. However, a recent meta-analysis found no time-dependent change in MS excess mortality across studies over recent decades.

Objective

To investigate whether short-term all-cause excess mortality in patients with MS in the total Danish population has changed over the last six decades.

Patients and methods

We included all patients with MS recorded in the nationwide Danish MS Registry with definite or probable MS and onset from 1950 through 1999. The Danish Civil Registration System provided date of death for all deceased patients with follow-up in 2015, and Statistics Denmark supplied specific population mortality. We calculated excess number of death per 1000 person-years (EDR) and standardised mortality ratio (SMR).

Results

We included 18 847 patients among whom 6102 had died as opposed to 2492 expected deaths. EDR was 10.63 (95% CI 10.19 to 11.09) and a SMR was 2.45 (95% CI 2.39 to 2.51). The 15-year EDR dropped gradually from 11.29 (95% CI 9.95 to 12.73) in the 1950–1959 onset cohort to 2.56 (95% CI 1.98 to 3.18) in the 1990–1999 onset cohort, and SMR dropped from 4.48 (95% CI 4.06 to 4.92) to 1.80 (95% CI 1.62 to 1.99).

Conclusion

The decline in short-term excess mortality in MS started decades before disease-modifying treatment of MS became available, before use of MRI became widespread, and before the McDonald diagnostic criteria were introduced. A change in the MS cohorts with fewer malignant cases may be a significant contributor.

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