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Keywords:

  • Parkinson's disease;
  • deep brain stimulation;
  • limb coordination;
  • asymmetry;
  • locomotion

Abstract

The effect of subthalamic deep brain stimulation on gait coordination and freezing of gait in patients with Parkinson's disease is incompletely understood. The purpose of this study was to investigate the extent to which modulation of symmetry and coordination between legs by subthalamic deep brain stimulation alters the frequency and duration of freezing of gait in patients with Parkinson's disease. We recruited 13 post-subthalamic deep brain stimulation patients with Parkinson's disease with off freezing of gait and evaluated them in the following 4 conditions: subthalamic deep brain stimulation on (ON) and stimulation off (OFF), 50% reduction of stimulation voltage for the leg with shorter step length (worse side reduction) and for the leg with longer step length (better side reduction). Gait analysis was performed on a treadmill and recorded by an optoelectronic analysis system. We measured frequency and duration of freezing of gait episodes. Bilateral coordination of gait was assessed by the Phase Coordination Index, quantifying the ability to generate antiphase stepping. From the OFF to the ON state, freezing of gait improved in frequency (2.0 ± 0.4 to 1.4 ± 0.5 episodes) and duration (12.2 ± 2.6 to 2.6 ± 0.8 seconds; P = .005). Compared with the ON state, only better side reduction further reduced freezing of gait frequency (0.2 ± 0.2) and duration of episodes (0.2 ± 0.2 seconds; P = .03); worse side reduction did not change frequency (1.3 ± 0.4) but increased freezing of gait duration (5.2 ± 2.1 seconds). The better side reduction–associated improvements were accompanied by normalization of gait coordination, as measured by phase coordination index (16.5% ± 6.0%), which was significantly lower than in the other 3 conditions. Reduction of stimulation voltage in the side contralateral to the leg with longer step length improves frequency and duration of freezing of gait through normalization of gait symmetry and coordination in subthalamic deep brain stimulation patients with Parkinson's disease. This identifies poor leg coordination as a risk factor for causing freezing of gait. © 2011 Movement Disorder Society