The prevalence of gait disorders among neurological inpatients is unknown, although disturbed gait is a common symptom. Gait disorders often lead to loss of independence with restraints for the patients and caregivers and costs for the health system. We designed a prospective study and investigated all patients admitted to a neurological hospital during a 100-day period for the presence of a gait disorder. Clinical investigation and several disease-specific rating scales were carried out for 493 patients. In 60% of the patients, a disturbance of gait was diagnosed. Most frequent diagnoses were stroke (21%), Parkinson's disease (17%), and polyneuropathy (7%). Within these diagnoses, the rate of patients with disturbed gait was high in Parkinson's disease (93%), subcortical arteriosclerotic encephalopathy (85%), and motor neuron disease (83%). Advanced age, dementia, alcohol abuse, and treatment with antiepileptics, neuroleptics, benzodiazepines, and chemotherapeutics were identified as risk factors for a gait disorder. A decline of cognitive function was accompanied by a reduction of walking speed. According to these results, gait disorders are among the most frequent symptoms in neurology.
(c) 2004 Movement Disorder Society.