Falls in Parkinson’s disease may be adversely impacted by deep brain stimulation


New findings from the Parkinson Alliance show that falls are highly prevalent in Parkinson’s disease and may be adversely impacted by deep brain stimulation therapy. 

Given that falls are a substantial problem for people with Parkinson’s disease with health, social and psychological implications, the Parkinson Alliance conducted a survey related to falls for individuals with Parkinson’s disease with and without deep brain stimulation.

In the study “Falls and fear of falling in Parkinson’s disease with and without deep brain stimulation,” there were 1,153 individuals who participated, including 334 participants with Parkinson’s disease who underwent deep brain stimulation and 819 individuals with Parkinson’s disease without deep brain stimulation. There was a high prevalence for falls in this population with increased frequency as the disease progresses. Individuals who have deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus (DBS-STN) have 2.52 times the risk of falling compared to individuals with Parkinson’s disease who do not have deep brain stimulation. Factors contributing to falls include balance problems, gait disturbance, freezing, fatigue, vision problems, difficulties with cognition, depression and anxiety, and decreased arm swing.

“This research is part of the bigger mission for Parkinson Alliance: to give a voice to the individual with Parkinson’s disease to better understand his or her experiences with this disease, and to give practical recommendations to help individuals with Parkinson’s disease and those who share their lives,” says Jeffrey Wertheimer, clinical neuropsychologist and chief research consultant for Parkinson Alliance. “Falls may result in increased medical attention and expense, psychological distress, restriction in engagement of activities, and reduced quality of life. This particular study highlights the importance of attending to the risk factors related to falls in Parkinson’s disease, and implementation of fall prevention programmes. Falls and related treatment should be discussed regularly and routinely with individuals with Parkinson’s disease […] For individuals who are receiving deep brain stimulation therapy, increased education about and intervention for fall prevention should be discussed during each follow-up visit with their doctor,” adds Wertheimer.