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A disturbed, inconsistent walking pattern is a common feature of patients with Parkinson's disease (PwPD). Such extreme variability in both temporal and spatial parameters of gait has been associated with unstable walking and an elevated prevalence of falls. However, despite their ability to discretise healthy from pathological function, normative variability values for key gait parameters are still missing. Furthermore, an understanding of each parameter's response to pathology, as well as the inter-parameter relationships, has received little attention. The aim of this systematic literature review and meta-analysis was therefore to define threshold levels for pathological gait variability as well as to investigate whether all gait parameters are equally perturbed in PwPD. Based on a broader systematic literature search that included 13′195 titles, 34 studies addressed Parkinson's disease, presenting 800 PwPD and 854 healthy subjects. Eight gait parameters were compared, of which six showed increased levels of variability during walking in PwPD. The most commonly reported parameter, coefficient of variation of stride time, revealed an upper threshold of 2.4% to discriminate the two groups. Variability of step width, however, was consistently lower in PwPD compared to healthy subjects, and therefore suggests an explicit sensory motor system control mechanism to prioritize balance during walking. The results provide a clear functional threshold for monitoring treatment efficacy in patients with Parkinson's disease. More importantly, however, quantification of specific functional deficits could well provide a basis for locating the source and extent of the neurological damage, and therefore aid clinical decision-making for individualizing therapies.


This article was originally published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, volume 10, in 2016. DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00319

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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