Physical therapy in Huntington's disease – toward objective assessments?

Authors


Correspondence: S. Bohlen, Department of Neurology, University Hospital Muenster (UKM), University of Muenster, Albert-Schweitzer-Campus 1, 48149 Muenster, Germany (tel.: (+49) 251-834-5396/-4483; fax: (+49) 251-834-5397; e-mail: bohlens@uni-muenster.de).

Abstract

Background and purpose

Physical therapy is recommended for the treatment of Huntington's disease, but reliable studies investigating its efficacy are almost non-existent. This may in part be due to the lack of suitable outcome measures. Therefore, we investigated the applicability of novel quantitative and objective assessments of motor dysfunction in the evaluation of physical therapy interventions aimed at improving gait and posture.

Methods

Twelve patients with Huntington disease received a predefined twice-weekly intervention focusing on posture and gait over 6 weeks. The GAITRite mat and a force plate were used for objective and quantitative assessments. The Unified Huntingtons Disease Rating Scale Total Motor Score, the timed Up &Go test, and the Berg Balance Scale were used as clinical outcome measures.

Results

Significant improvements were seen in GAITRite measures after therapy. Improvements were also seen in the Up & Go test and Berg Balance Scale, whereas force plate measures and Total Motor Scores did not change.

Conclusions

The results suggest that physical therapy has a positive effect on gait in Huntington's disease. The study shows that objective and quantitative measures of gait and posture may serve as endpoints in trials assessing the efficacy of physical therapy. They should be explored further in larger trials applying a randomized controlled setting.

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