Falls in Parkinson's disease

Curr Opin Neurol. 2004 Aug;17(4):405-15. doi: 10.1097/01.wco.0000137530.68867.93.


Purpose of review: To summarize the latest insights into the clinical significance, assessment, pathophysiology and treatment of falls in Parkinson's disease.

Recent findings: Recent studies have shown that falls are common in Parkinson's disease, even when compared with other fall-prone populations. The clinical impact of falls is considerable, often leading to an incapacitating fear of renewed falls. The associated costs for society are substantial. Clinical assessment often includes the retropulsion test, and recent studies have offered practical recommendations regarding the execution and scoring of this test. Insights into the pathophysiology underlying falls are growing and point to an important role for the loss of inter-segmental flexibility ('stiffness'), which predisposes patients to falls in a backward or medial-lateral direction. New evidence has clarified why Parkinson's disease patients commonly fall during transfers and under 'dual tasking' circumstances. The absence of adequately directed arm movements may explain the relatively high proportion of hip fractures in Parkinson's disease. The importance of freezing of gait as a cause of falls is recognized, and we are beginning to understand the different manifestations of gait freezing. Recent work has defined the contributions of pharmacotherapy, stereotactic neurosurgery, physiotherapy and multidisciplinary interventions in the treatment of postural instability to prevent falls in Parkinson's disease.

Summary: No dramatic breakthroughs have occurred during the review period, but new information in various areas may be useful for practising clinicians. Interesting new questions have been raised that should fuel studies of pathophysiological mechanisms, which could help in the development of improved treatment strategies to reduce falls in Parkinson's disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Arm / innervation
  • Arm / physiopathology
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Movement / physiology
  • Muscle Hypertonia / physiopathology
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Postural Balance / physiology*