Background: Higher-level gait disorder (HLGD) in older adults is characterized by postural instability, stepping dysrhythmicity, recurrent falls and progressive immobility. Cognitive impairments are frequently associated with HLGD.
Objectives: The aim of this study was to compare gait and cognitive performance before and after the use of rivastigmine in patients with HLGD, free from cognitive impairment or Parkinsonism.
Methods: Fifteen non-demented patients with HLGD (age 79.2 ± 5.9 years; 11 women; Mini-Mental State Examination [MMSE] 28.3 ± 1.4) received escalating doses of rivastigmine for 12 weeks in an open-label, pilot study. They were assessed before and after treatment (week 0 and week 12), and after a 4-week washout period (week 16). Assessments included the Mindstreams computerized neuropsychological battery, Activities-specific Balance Confidence Scale, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, Geriatric Depression Scale, Timed Up and Go (TUG) test, gait speed and stride time variability. One-way multiple analysis of variance tests for repeated measures were used, and Pillai's trace test was considered as robust to investigate significant differences.
Results: The mean dose of rivastigmine during the 8-12 week period was 5.1 ± 2.3 mg/day. A positive effect was observed on the Mindstreams memory subscale and anxiety scores [Pillai's trace: F(6,724) = 0.508, p = 0.010; and F(7,792) = 0.545, p = 0.006, respectively, over the course of the study] as well as on mobility (TUG test) [Pillai's trace: F(4,863) = 0.448; p = 0.028], whereas gait speed and stride time variability did not change.
Conclusions: The use of relatively low-dose rivastigmine did not affect gait speed and stride time variability; however, the general mobility and anxiety were improved. These preliminary results warrant a larger, randomized, placebo-controlled study.