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Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a rare, progressive neuromuscular disease characterized by loss of motor neurons and muscle atrophy. Untreated infants with Type 1 SMA do not achieve major motor milestones, and death from respiratory failure typically occurs before 2 years. Individuals with Types 2 and 3 SMA exhibit milder phenotypes and have better functional and survival outcomes. Herein, a systematic literature review was conducted to identify factors that influence the prognosis of Types 1, 2 and 3 SMA. In untreated infants with Type 1 SMA, absence of symptoms at birth, a later symptom onset and a higher survival of motor neuron 2 (SMN2) copy number are all associated with increased survival. Disease duration, age at treatment initiation and, to a lesser extent, baseline function were identified as potential treatment-modifying factors for survival, emphasizing that early treatment with disease-modifying therapies (DMT) is essential in Type 1 SMA. In patients with Types 2 and 3 SMA, factors considered prognostic of changes in motor function were SMN2 copy number, age and ambulatory status. Individuals aged 6-15 years were particularly vulnerable to developing complications (scoliosis and progressive joint contractures) which negatively influence functional outcomes and may also affect the therapeutic response in patients. Age at the time of treatment initiation emerged as a treatment-effect modifier on the outcome of DMTs. Factors identified in this review should be considered prior to designing or analyzing studies in an SMA population, conducting population matching or summarizing results from different studies on the treatments for SMA.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin Pharmacol Ther

Publication Date



Data analysis, Disease progression, Neuroscience, Phenotype, Therapeutics