Prevalence of freezing of gait in Parkinson's disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis

J Neurol. 2021 Nov;268(11):4138-4150. doi: 10.1007/s00415-021-10685-5. Epub 2021 Jul 8.


Background: Freezing of gait (FOG) is considered one of the most disturbing and least understood symptoms in Parkinson's disease (PD). The reported prevalence rates of FOG in PD vary widely, ranging from 5 to 85.9%.

Objective: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to provide a reliable estimate of the average point prevalence of FOG in PD, and we further investigated the study characteristics that might have influenced the estimate.

Methods: We searched different databases to identify studies that report the prevalence of FOG in PD or include relevant raw data for further calculation. The last inclusion date was February 20, 2020. The modified Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies (QUADAS) tool was used for the quality assessment, and articles that met the predefined criteria were included in the quantitative analysis.

Results: Sixty-six studies were selected from 3392 references. A weighted prevalence of 50.6% in 9072 PD patients experienced FOG based on the special questionnaires (the FOG-Q and NFOG-Q), which was about twice as high as that assessed by the specific items of the clinical rating scales (UPDRS item2.14 and MDS-UPDRS item3.11) (23.2%) or simple clinical questions (25.4%). The weighted prevalence was 37.9% for early stage (≤ 5 years) and 64.6% for advanced stage (≥ 9 years). Moreover, a higher prevalence was calculated from the population-based studies than that in multicenter and single-center studies (47.3% vs. 33.5% and 37.1%, respectively).

Conclusion: The result from this systematic review confirms that FOG is very common in PD and its prevalence is usually underestimated in hospital settings. Importantly, a more accurate assessment of FOG in future clinical researches would involve the use of special FOG scale rather than a single item on a scale or a general clinical inquiry.

Keywords: Freezing of gait; Meta-analysis; Parkinson’s disease; Prevalence; Review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Gait
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic* / epidemiology
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Parkinson Disease* / complications
  • Parkinson Disease* / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Surveys and Questionnaires