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Characterization of a chronic cough in cerebellar ataxia, neuropathy, vestibular areflexia syndrome.

OBJECTIVES: Cerebellar ataxia with neuropathy and vestibular areflexia syndrome (CANVAS) is a common cause of late-onset ataxia that often presents with chronic cough. This study is the first to characterize the CANVAS cough both objectively and subjectively.

METHODS: A cross-sectional study of 13 patients was conducted. Medical records and available esophagram, modified barium swallow study, esophageal manometry, and video laryngostroboscopy data were reviewed. Leicester cough questionnaire (LCQ) and Eating Assessment Tool-10 were administered to evaluate quality of life (QoL) impairments and dysphagia symptoms, respectively. CANVAS history questionnaire was developed to characterize the clinical course.

RESULTS: 92% of patients endorsed chronic cough that preceded gait instability by a median of 16 years. Cough was dry (67%), disturbed sleep (75%), triggered by various factors, including talking, eating, and dry/spicy foods, did not respond to standard reflux therapy, and inconsistently responded to neuromodulators and superior laryngeal nerve injections. Despite perceived cough severity worsening or remaining constant in most patients, no correlation was found between cough duration and total LCQ scores. Patients reported significantly more negative social QoL impacts compared to physical QoL impacts. Ataxia duration and years of cough before ataxia symptoms were directly and inversely correlated with total LCQ scores, respectively. Imaging data revealed esophageal dysmotility (71%), vestibular penetration (57%), vestibular aspiration (14%), supraglottic compression (63%), vocal fold lesions/atrophy (50%), and arytenoid erythema (38%).

CONCLUSION: Chronic cough is a hallmark presenting symptom in CANVAS with predominantly psychosocial QoL effects and unrecognized laryngeal alterations. In cases of idiopathic, refractory chronic cough, genetic testing for CANVAS should be considered, especially in association with sensory, cerebellar, and/or vestibular involvement.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: VI.

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