Objective: To define key issues in the diagnosis of Parkinson disease (PD), to define features influencing progression, and to make evidence-based recommendations. Two clinical questions were identified: 1) Which clinical features and diagnostic modalities distinguish PD from other parkinsonian syndromes? 2) Which clinical features predict rate of disease progression?
Methods: Systematic review of the literature was completed. Articles were classified according to a four-tiered level of evidence scheme. Recommendations were based on the evidence.
Results and conclusions: 1. Early falls, poor response to levodopa, symmetry of motor manifestations, lack of tremor, and early autonomic dysfunction are probably useful in distinguishing other parkinsonian syndromes from Parkinson disease (PD). 2. Levodopa or apomorphine challenge and olfactory testing are probably useful in distinguishing PD from other parkinsonian syndromes. 3. Predictive factors for more rapid motor progression, nursing home placement, and shorter survival time include older age at onset of PD, associated comorbidities, presentation with rigidity and bradykinesia, and decreased dopamine responsiveness. Future research into methods for earlier and more accurate diagnosis of the disease and identification and clarification of predictive factors of rapid disease progression is warranted.