STUDY EXAMINES SURVIVAL AND CAUSE OF DEATH IN MS Detailed studies of mortality in MS are limited. Studying death certificates in people known to have MS is of value in establishing mortality data and can also provide important information on the accuracy and utility of death certificates for epidemiological studies.
In 1985, a population-based survey performed in South Wales identified 441 people with MS. The Office of Population Censuses and Surveys flagged cases and death certificates were collected for more than 20 years.
Median observed survival time was 38 years from symptom onset. Mean age at death for women was 65.3 and 65.2 for men. Mean age at death from MS- related causes was 62.5. It stood at 69.3 years for unrelated deaths. Those dying of MS-related causes had a younger age at disease onset (32.5) compared to those dying of unrelated causes (36.8 years). The cause of death was related to MS in 57.9% of cases and unrelated in 42.1% of cases. In 27% of those diagnosed with MS, "MS" was absent from the death certificate. The most common cause of death was respiratory disease (47.5%).
These results confirm that identifying a continuing trend based on information derived from death certificates will underestimate disease prevalence. Differences were identified between those dying from MS related causes and those dying from other causes.
"There are potential problems with this data," states Ben Thrower, M.D. "It's from 1985, a time when there were no available therapies for slowing the progression of MS. At that time, people were still arguing about whether Devic's disease was just a variant of MS or a different condition. I suspect that some Devic's cases got labeled as MS. Devic's can be aggressive and shorten life expectancy. It may also be possible that people with progressive disease are treated differently in a nationalized healthcare system as is utilized in Great Britain."