Multiple System Atrophy (MSA)

Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) is a rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by any combination of Parkinsonism, cerebellar ataxia, and autonomic failure. The autonomic failure can include severe impairments such as orthostatic hypotension, post-prandial hypotension, postural instability, falls, and constipation. It is also the only neurodegenerative disorder with cerebellar dysfunction (ataxia, kinetic tremors). Although more typically considered as a neurodegenerative movement disorder, MSA is increasingly recognized as having a cognitive impairment component as well, in particular with impairments in verbal memory and verbal fluency.[1]

  • MSA affects men and women equally, with an average age of onset of approximately 55 years.[2]
    • The mean life expectancy following diagnosis is 7 years
    • Thus, late-onset presentations at age 70 and above is unusal.
  • The progression of MSA is usually rapid and relentless with a mean survival of 6–10 years.[3]
Risk Factors
  • Severe orthostatic hypotension
  • Incontinence

MSA can be difficult to differentiate from Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB), Parkinson's Disease (PD), and Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) in both early and late stages of the disease process. These disease are all within the family of Parkinson's-plus disorders.[5]