ORIGINAL COMMUNICATION

Journal of Neurology

, Volume 252, Issue 3, pp 300-306

First online:

Clinical characteristics of elderly patients with a cautious gait of unknown origin

  • N. GiladiAffiliated withDepts. of Physical Therapy, Neurology and Diagnostic Imaging, Sackler Faculty of Medicine Tel-Aviv UniversityMovement Disorders Unit, Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center Email author 
  • , T. HermanAffiliated withDepts. of Physical Therapy, Neurology and Diagnostic Imaging, Sackler Faculty of Medicine Tel-Aviv UniversityMovement Disorders Unit, Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center
  • , I. I. Reider-GroswasserAffiliated withSection of Neuro-radiology, Dept. of Imaging Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical CenterDepts. of Physical Therapy, Neurology and Diagnostic Imaging, Sackler Faculty of Medicine Tel-Aviv University
  • , T. GurevichAffiliated withDepts. of Physical Therapy, Neurology and Diagnostic Imaging, Sackler Faculty of Medicine Tel-Aviv UniversityMovement Disorders Unit, Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center
  • , J. M. HausdorffAffiliated withDepts. of Physical Therapy, Neurology and Diagnostic Imaging, Sackler Faculty of Medicine Tel-Aviv UniversityDivision on Aging, Harvard Medical SchoolMovement Disorders Unit, Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center

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Abstract

Objective

To evaluate and systematically characterize a group of older adults with disturbed gait of unknown origin.

Design

Cross–sectional study.

Setting

Outpatient clinic in a movement disorders unit.

Participants

Twenty–five patients (mean age 78.4 years) with a disturbed gait of unknown origin were compared with twenty–eight age matched ”healthy” controls (mean age 78.2).

Measurement

Detailed medical history, geriatric and neurological assessments.

Results

Patients walked more slowly (P < 0.0001) and with shorter strides (P < 0.0001) compared with controls. Muscle strength was lower, and static and dynamic balance and gait performance were worse among the patients (P < 0.0001). The patients also tended to be more depressed (P < 0.0001),more anxious (P < 0.002), had a greater fear of falling (P < 0.0001) and had lower scores on the Mini–Mental State Examination (P < 0.005). There was no difference in the frequency of cerebellar or pyramidal signs in the two groups. However, neurological testing revealed that extrapyramidal (P < 0.0001) and frontal release signs (P < 0.0001) were more common among the patients. Neuroradiological findings were rare among the patients and they did not explain the changes in gait speed or fear of falling.

Conclusions

Older adults with a disturbed gait of unknown origin appear to share common characteristics. They walk more slowly than “healthy” controls with increased unsteadiness and with excessive fear of falling. The extrapyramidal, frontal lobe, and limbic systems apparently play an important role, to different degrees, in what can be viewed as a multisystem neurodegenerative syndrome clearly different from ”aging.”

Key words

gait disequilibrium fear of falling aging