Background:

Vocal disorders are frequent in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). Cognitive impairment, fatigue, depression, and other clinical characteristics can be associated with treatment effectiveness in rehabilitation. Finding baseline characteristics that identify those who are responding to treatment can help the clinical decision-making process, which can then help improve the effectiveness of voice treatment. We developed a model to identify factors associated with treatment-related improvement on voice intensity in people with MS.

Methods:

Data are from a randomized controlled trial of the effects of voice therapy. Forty-four people with MS were enrolled and randomized to receive Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT) LOUD, specifically addressing voice intensity, or conventional speech-therapy group. Voice intensity (dB) was measured during monologue before and after treatment and was used to differentiate those who responded (posttreatment voice intensity > 60 dB) from those who did not. Possible associated factors were cognitive impairment, fatigue, depression, disability, and disease duration. Associations were assessed by univariate logistic regression and univariate and multivariate linear regressions.

Results:

Mean ± SD monologue voice intensity in improved in the whole sample (before rehabilitation: 51.8 ± 4.2 dB; and after rehabilitation 57.0 ± 6.5 dB; P < .001), and 11 people with MS (27.5%) responded to treatment. Specificity of treatment was associated with the return to normal voice intensity (OR, 14.28; 95% CI, 12.17-309.56) and we found a linear association between voice improvement and the specificity of treatment (6.65 [SE = 1.54] dB; P < .05). Moreover, the analysis revealed a nonlinear association between improvement and fatigue, suggesting increased benefits for people with MS with moderate fatigue. Other factors were not significantly associated with treatment effectiveness.

Conclusions:

Moderate fatigue and the specificity of the intervention seem to be key factors associated with clinically relevant improvement in voice intensity even in people with MS with a high level of disability and long disease duration.

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