We assessed the International Cooperative Ataxia Scale (ICARS) as a means of extracting and rating cerebellar signs in multiple system atrophy (MSA). Cross-sectional analysis of internal consistency, factor structure, and correlation with parkinsonism severity (Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale [UPDRS] III) of the ICARS, in 50 unselected MSA patients (mean age, 67.6 years; mean disease duration, 5.5 years), 50 age-matched and disease duration-matched Parkinson' disease (PD) patients, and 50 control subjects. Fifteen patients (30%) had MSA-C (cerebellar subtype) and 35 (70%) MSA-P (parkinsonism subtype), and 66% had at least one cerebellar sign. The total ICARS score was much higher (fivefold) in MSA compared to PD patients. The ICARS score was twofold higher in MSA-C than in MSA-P patients. MSA-C patients had a higher score than MSA-P mainly on posture and gait disturbances and kinetic functions subscores. All the ICARS items were significantly more severe in MSA than in PD patients, who in turn scored higher than the controls. In MSA, internal consistency was excellent (Cronbach = 0.93). Factor structure analysis revealed four clinically distinct subscores, in accordance with the scale structure, which accounted for 70% of the variance. The ICARS showed less consistency and accuracy in PD patients; however, the ICARS scores significantly correlated with the UPDRS-III scores in both MSA and PD patients. The ICARS appears a useful tool to extract and rate the severity of cerebellar signs in MSA; however, it is clearly contaminated by parkinsonian features.
Copyright 2002 Movement Disorder Society