2021 Volume 60 Issue 10 Pages 1519-1524
Objective The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in a shortage of medical resources, including ventilators, personal protective equipment, medical staff, and hospital beds. We investigated the impact of COVID-19 in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients, their families, caregivers, and medical experts.
Methods We conducted a nationwide ALS webinar about COVID-19 in May 2020 and sent a questionnaire to those enrolled.
Results A total of 135 participants (31 ALS patients; 23 families and caregivers of ALS patients; 81 medical experts) responded to this cross-sectional self-report questionnaire. The results showed that tracheostomy and invasive ventilation (TIV) was used in 22.6% of ALS patients, whereas 77.4% of ALS patients were not under TIV. Among non-TIV patients (n=24), 79.2% did not want TIV in the future. However, 47.4% of non-TIV patients not wanting a tracheostomy in advanced stages replied that they would want an emergency tracheostomy if they developed COVID-19-related pneumonia. These results suggest that ALS patients may be receptive to emergency treatments for reasons other than ALS. In addition, approximately half of the ALS patients agreed with the policy of not ventilating the elderly or ALS patients in case of a ventilator shortage. Furthermore, compared with medical experts, few ALS patients reported that the chance for ALS patients to obtain work was higher due to the increasing availability of remote work.
Conclusions This survey indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic might be associated with increased distress about access to care and work, inducing contradictory responses and potential hopelessness among ALS patients.