Spinal cord stimulation therapy for gait dysfunction in advanced Parkinson’s disease patients



Background: Benefits of dopaminergic therapy and deep brain stimulation are limited and unpredictable for axial symptoms in Parkinson’s disease. Dorsal spinal cord stimulation may be a new therapeutic approach. The objective of this study was to investigate the therapeutic effect of spinal cord stimulation on gait including freezing of gait in advanced PD patients.

Methods: Five male PD participants with significant gait disturbances and freezing of gait underwent midthoracic spinal cord stimulation. Spinal cord stimulation combinations (200-500 μs/30-130 Hz) at suprathreshold intensity were tested over a 1- to 4-month period, and the effects of spinal cord stimulation were studied 6 months after spinal cord stimulation surgery. Protokinetics Walkway measured gait parameters. Z scores per gait variable established each participant’s best spinal cord stimulation setting. Timed sit-to-stand and automated freezing-of-gait detection using foot pressures were analyzed. Freezing of Gait Questionnaire (FOG-Q), UPDRS motor items, and activities-specific balance confidence scale were completed at each study visit.

Results: Spinal cord stimulation setting combinations of 300-400 μs/30-130 Hz provided gait improvements. Although on-medication/on-stimulation at 6 months, mean step length, stride velocity, and sit-to-stand improved by 38.8%, 42.3%, and 50.3%, respectively, mean UPDRS, Freezing of Gait Questionnaire, and activities-specific balance confidence scale scores improved by 33.5%, 26.8%, and 71.4%, respectively. The mean number of freezing-of-gait episodes reduced significantly from 16 presurgery to 0 at 6 months while patients were on levodopa and off stimulation.

Conclusions: By using objective measures to detect dynamic gait characteristics, the therapeutic potential of spinal cord stimulation was optimized to each participant’s characteristics. This pilot study demonstrated the safety and significant therapeutic outcome of spinal cord stimulation in advanced PD patients, and thus a larger and longer clinical study will be conducted to replicate these results. © 2018 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society


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