Background: Levodopa therapy for Parkinson disease (PD) has improved quality of life, but mortality rates remain high. Although the presence of dementia and severity of extrapyramidal signs (EPSs) influence morbidity in PD, it is not known whether these manifestations contribute to mortality.
Methods: Patients with PD were compared with nondemented and demented elderly subjects. Each underwent annual neurological and neuropsychological examinations. Dementia was diagnosed by Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition, Revised criteria, and EPSs were rated with the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale. Survival rates were compared using Kaplan-Meier analysis and Cox proportional hazards models.
Results: The risk of mortality, when compared with nondemented elderly subjects, was highest among those with both PD and dementia (rate ratio, 4.9; 95% confidence interval, 3.4-7.1), but also was elevated in patients with PD only (rate ratio, 2.7; 95% confidence interval, 1.7-4.4). Dementia in the absence of PD also was associated with an increased risk of mortality (rate ratio, 1.6; 95% confidence interval, 1.1-2.3). A high baseline total EPS score was associated with significantly earlier mortality.
Conclusions: Compared with nondemented elderly people in the same community, patients with PD have a 2- to 5-fold increased risk of mortality. The risk is strongly related to the presence of severe EPSs, especially bradykinesia. Despite the introduction of levodopa and other advances in the treatment of PD, these factors greatly increase mortality.