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Background. Subthalamic deep brain stimulation (STN-DBS) is an effective treatment for selected Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients. Gait characteristics are often altered after surgery, but quantitative therapeutic effects are poorly described. Objective. The goal of this study was to systematically investigate modifications in asymmetry and dyscoordination of gait 6 months postoperatively in patients with PD and compare the outcomes with preoperative baseline and to asymptomatic controls without PD. Methods. A convenience sample of thirty-two patients with PD (19 with postural instability and gait disorder (PIGD) type and 13 with tremor dominant disease) and 51 asymptomatic controls participated. Parkinson patients were tested prior to the surgery in both OFF and ON medication states, and 6-months postoperatively in the ON stimulation condition. Movement Disorder Society-Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (MDS-UPDRS) I to IV and medication were compared to preoperative conditions. Asymmetry ratios, phase coordination index, and walking speed were assessed. Results. MDS-UPDRS I to IV at 6 months improved significantly, and levodopa equivalent daily dosages significantly decreased. STN-DBS increased step time asymmetry (hedges’ g effect sizes [95% confidence interval] between pre- and post-surgery: .27 [-.13, .73]) and phase coordination index (.29 [-.08, .67]). These effects were higher in the PIGD subgroup than the tremor dominant (step time asymmetry: .38 [-.06, .90] vs .09 [-.83, 1.0] and phase coordination index: .39 [-.04, .84] vs .13 [-.76, .96]). Conclusions. This study provides objective evidence of how STN-DBS increases asymmetry and dyscoordination of gait in patients with PD and suggests motor subtypes‐associated differences in the treatment response.


This article was originally published in Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, volume 35, issue 11, in 2021.

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