Predictors of institutionalization for people with multiple sclerosis

Lilian U. Thorpe, M.D., Ph.D., Katherine Knox, M.D., Rochelle Jalbert, B.Sc., June Hyun-Ja Lim, Ph.D., Darren Nickel, Ph.D., Walter J. Hader, M.D., F.R.C.P.



Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, progressive disease of the central nervous system with a high prevalence in Canada. While the disease course is highly variable, a significant portion of people with MS may spend more than 10 years living with severe disability, and many of those will eventually require full time institutional care. Despite the high personal and economic cost of this care, little is known about predictors of institutionalization.


The objective of this study was to identify predictors of institutionalization.


Longitudinal data from a university MS clinic database were extracted to explore nursing home placement over time of an urban subgroup. Cox regression analysis was performed with age of MS onset and sex, as well as baseline information obtained at the first MS clinic assessment: MS course, Kurtzke Expanded Disability Status Scale score, and functional system scores.


Older age of onset (p = .019) and higher baseline scores in specific functional systems (cerebellar, bowel/bladder, brainstem, and cerebral/mental) were significant (p = .000, p = .000, p = .001, p = .000 respectively) predictors of nursing home placement.


Patients with older age of MS onset and those with baseline impairment in specific functional systems (cerebellar, bowel/bladder, brainstem, and cerebral/mental) may be at higher risk for future institutionalization and should be assessed with particular care to determine potential avenues of support to minimize this.