Neuropathy in Parkinson's disease patients with intestinal levodopa infusion versus oral drugs

PLoS One. 2013 Jun 20;8(6):e66639. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0066639. Print 2013.


Background: Severe polyneuropathy has been observed in a number of patients treated for Parkinson's disease with Levodopa/Carbidopa intestinal gel infusion. This may reflect a rare individual complication or a systematic side effect.

Objective: To investigate whether peripheral nerve function differed between patients with oral treatment versus Levodopa/Carbidopa intestinal gel infusion.

Methods: In an observational design, data from median, tibial, and peroneal neurography were prospectively assessed and compared between patients with conventional drug treatment (n = 15) and with Levodopa/Carbidopa intestinal gel infusion (n = 15). The groups were matched for age and disease duration. In view of the medical risk profile for polyneuropathy, comorbidity and basic serological parameters were assessed.

Results: Axonal neuropathy was common in both patient groups. However, although group differences in risk factors for polyneuropathy were not evident, neurographic abnormalities were more severe in the patients treated with Levodopa/Carbidopa intestinal gel infusion than in the orally treated patients. In the group with Levodopa/Carbidopa intestinal gel infusion, the degree of neuropathic change correlated with weight lost since therapy initiation and with the drug dose. In contrast to the axonal abnormalities, conduction velocity was found normal in both groups.

Conclusion: The results are compatible with the promotion of axonal neuropathy by Levodopa/Carbidopa intestinal gel infusion. This could be due to the intrinsically high levodopa doses associated with the therapy and/or malnutritional effects from intestinal drug application. The results should be corroborated by a larger longitudinal and controlled trial.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Aged
  • Antiparkinson Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antiparkinson Agents / adverse effects
  • Antiparkinson Agents / therapeutic use
  • Carbidopa / administration & dosage
  • Carbidopa / adverse effects*
  • Carbidopa / therapeutic use
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Gels / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Parenteral
  • Intestines
  • Levodopa / administration & dosage
  • Levodopa / adverse effects*
  • Levodopa / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Outcome Assessment
  • Polyneuropathies / chemically induced*
  • Polyneuropathies / diagnosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Weight Loss / drug effects


  • Antiparkinson Agents
  • Gels
  • Levodopa
  • Carbidopa

Grant support

No current external funding sources for this study.