Evaluation of the elderly patient with an abnormal gait

J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2007 Feb;15(2):107-17. doi: 10.5435/00124635-200702000-00005.


Distinguishing between the normal gait of the elderly and pathologic gaits is often difficult. Pathologic gaits with neurologic causes include frontal gait, spastic hemiparetic gait, parkinsonian gait, cerebellar ataxic gait, and sensory ataxic gait. Pathologic gaits with combined neurologic and musculoskeletal causes include myelopathic gait, stooped gait of lumbar spinal stenosis, and steppage gait. Pathologic gaits with musculoskeletal causes include antalgic gait, coxalgic gait, Trendelenburg gait, knee hyperextension gait, and other gaits caused by inadequate joint mobility. A working knowledge of the characteristics of these gaits and a systematic approach to observational gait examination can help identify the causes of abnormal gait. Patients with abnormal gait can benefit from the treatment of the primary cause of the disorder as well as by general fall-prevention interventions. Treatable causes of gait disturbance are found in a substantial proportion of patients and include normal-pressure hydrocephalus, vitamin B(12) deficiency, Parkinson's disease, alcoholism, medication toxicity, cervical spondylotic myelopathy, lumbar spinal stenosis, joint contractures, and painful disorders of the lower extremity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Apraxias
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / classification
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / diagnosis*
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / etiology*
  • Humans