Introduction/Aims: We investigated the age- and sex-specific incidence and survival of Medicare beneficiaries with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in patients 66 to 90 years of age. Methods: We identified all incident ALS cases within a population-based sample of Medicare beneficiaries in 2009 (total: 22 000 177 person-years at risk for ALS). We calculated age- and sex-specific incidence in 2009 according to multiple, progressively more stringent case definitions. Our most inclusive definition required one ALS code, whereas the most restrictive definition required at least one additional ALS code more than 6 months after the first code, including one from a neurologist. We identified associated imaging studies and electrodiagnostic testing and followed all cases through the end of 2014 to determine survival. Results: The overall incidence for our most inclusive definition was 22.84 per 100 000 person-years for men and 16.05 per 100 000 person-years for women. The overall incidence was 5.72 per 100 000 person-years for men and 3.99 per 100 000 person-years for women for our most restrictive definition. For our most inclusive definition, fewer than 39.7% of cases ever had an ALS diagnosis from a neurologist, more than 50% had an electrodiagnostic test or imaging study, and 40.1% survived less than 1 year after diagnosis, with 25.5% of these cases surviving no more than 6 months. Cases not meeting the most restrictive definition were more likely than those who did meet the restrictive definition to be older, black, or Asian. Discussion: The oldest and marginalized Medicare beneficiaries diagnosed with ALS are less likely to be included in epidemiological studies with restrictive definitions, but future studies will need to assess the accuracy of diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-296
Number of pages8
JournalMuscle and Nerve
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Medicare
  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • epidemiology
  • motor neuron disease
  • older adults


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