The Scale for Assessment and Rating of Ataxia (SARA) is widely used in different types of ataxias and has been chosen as the primary outcome measure in the European natural history study for Friedreich ataxia (FA). To assess distribution and longitudinal changes of SARA scores and its single items, the authors analyzed SARA scores of 502 patients with typical-onset FA (<25 years) participating in the 4-year prospective European FA Consortium for Translational Studies (EFACTS). Pattern of disease progression was determined using linear mixed-effects regression models. The chosen statistical model was re-fitted in order to estimate parameters and predict disease progression. Median time-to-change and rate of score progression were estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method and weighted linear regression models, respectively. SARA score at study enrollment and age at onset were the major predictive factors of total score progression during the 4-year follow-up. To a less extent, age at evaluation also influenced the speed of SARA progression, while disease duration did not improve the prediction of the statistical model. Temporal dynamics of total SARA and items showed a great variability in the speed of score increase during disease progression. Gait item had the highest annual progression rate, with median time for one-point score increase of 1 to 2 years. Analyses of statistical properties of SARA suggest a variable sensitivity of the scale at different disease stages, and provide important information for population selection and result interpretation in future clinical trials.

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