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Healthcare Utilization and Supportive Care Timing in South Korean People Living With Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: A Single-Center Retrospective Study.

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Despite the growing demands and challenges faced by patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in accessing healthcare services, our understanding of this access remains poor. This study aimed to investigate the healthcare utilization patterns and timing of nutritional and respiration support in patients with ALS in South Korea.

METHODS: A retrospective cohort study was conducted on patients diagnosed with ALS at a single tertiary hospital between 2016 and 2019 and followed up for 2 years. We evaluated patient characteristics, healthcare utilization (hospital admissions, outpatient visits, and emergency department [ED] visits), and the timing of nutritional and respiration support (noninvasive positive pressure ventilation [NIPPV], tracheostomy, gastrostomy, and nasogastric tube) at 6-month intervals from the first outpatient visit.

RESULTS: Among the 143 included patients, 73.4% were admitted at least once, 18.9% experienced unplanned admissions, and 30.1% visited the ED at least once during the study period. The most-common reason for ED visits was neurological symptoms during the first 6 months (59.1%), followed by respiratory symptoms. One fifth of patients who visited the ED underwent tracheostomy (20.9%) or NIPPV (20.9%). Two years after the first visit, 32.2% used a ventilator, and 13.3%, 26.6%, and 6.3% had undergone tracheostomy, gastrostomy, and nasogastric tube insertion, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: During the 2 years following their first outpatient visit, 20% of patients with ALS experienced unplanned admissions and 30% visited the ED. An active and prompt supportive-care program should be implemented to ensure timely functional support in order to reduce these risks of unplanned admissions.

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