Introduction: Diminished mobility often accompanies dementia and has a great impact on independence and quality of life. New treatment strategies for dementia are emerging, but the effects on gait remains to be studied objectively. In this review we address the general effects of dementia on gait as revealed by quantitative gait analysis.
Methods: A systematic literature search with the (MESH) terms: 'dementia' and 'gait disorders' in Medline, CC, Psychlit and CinaHL between 1980-2002. Main inclusion criteria: controlled studies; patients with dementia; quantitative gait data.
Results: Seven publications met the inclusion criteria. All compared gait in Alzheimer's Disease (AD) with healthy elderly controls; one also assessed gait in Vascular Dementia (VaD). The methodology used was inconsistent and often had many shortcomings. However, there were several consistent findings: walking velocity decreased in dementia compared to healthy controls and decreased further with progressing severity of dementia. VaD was associated with a significant decrease in walking velocity compared to AD subjects. Dementia was associated with a shortened step length, an increased double support time and step to step variability.
Discussion: Gait in dementia is hardly analyzed in a well-designed manner. Despite this, the literature suggests that quantitative gait analysis can be sufficiently reliable and responsive to measure decline in walking velocity between subjects with and without dementia. More research is required to assess, both on an individual and a group level, how the minimal clinically relevant changes in gait in elderly demented patients should be defined and what would be the most responsive method to measure these changes.