Motor fatigue is a common complaint in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), but is often excluded, unlike weakness, from the clinical assessment of these patients. This could be due to the complexity and often painful assessment techniques of this motor deficit. This study examines the feasibility of quantitative assessment of motor fatigue by modifying presently available force measurements. The relationship between weakness and fatigue in ALS patients was also examined. Fifty-four ALS patients and 39 normal control subjects performed 30 s of sustained maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) of elbow flexors (EF), knee extensors (NE), and ankle dorsiflexors (DF), using a computerized force measurement system and standardized testing procedures. Fatigue index (FI) was digitally calculated, from the force-time curve, as the percentage of MVIC unable to be sustained over the 30-s period. Fatigue was greater in ALS patients than in normal control (mean=23% vs. 15%) in all muscles including muscles that were not clearly weak. Weakness and fatigue were poorly correlated in ALS patients and may be independent measures of the pathogeneses of ALS.
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