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Research paper
Effects of deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus on freezing of gait in Parkinson's disease: a prospective controlled study
  1. S Vercruysse1,
  2. W Vandenberghe2,
  3. L Münks1,
  4. B Nuttin3,
  5. H Devos1,
  6. A Nieuwboer1
  1. 1Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  2. 2Department of Neurology, University Hospitals Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  3. 3Department of Neurosurgery, University Hospitals Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to Sarah Vercruysse, Faculty of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, KU Leuven, Tervuursevest 101, Leuven 3001, Belgium; sarah.vercruysse{at}


Background Freezing of gait (FOG) is a debilitating gait disorder in Parkinson's disease (PD) with partial responsiveness to dopaminergic medication. To date, notions about the effects of subthalamic deep brain stimulation (STN-DBS) on FOG remain controversial.

Objectives To compare the effects of bilateral STN-DBS and continued best medical treatment (BMT) on FOG occurrence, FOG severity and clinical outcomes in PD patients at 6 and 12 months follow-up.

Methods In this prospective, controlled study, 41 PD patients with at least 5 years disease duration participated. Twenty-four subjects (20 with FOG) were treated with STN-DBS and seventeen (15 with FOG) continued BMT. The primary outcome was the New Freezing of Gait Questionnaire (NFOGQ) at 6 months postsurgery. Other outcomes were the NFOGQ at 12 months and clinical outcomes (Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale III (UPDRS III), timed gait, falls and quality of life) at both time points.

Results STN-DBS increased the likelihood to convert from being a freezer to a non-freezer at 6 and 12 months follow-up (relative risk reduction=0.4). However, 45% of baseline freezers still experienced FOG 6 and 12 months postsurgery although with reduced severity. Three baseline non-freezers (1/2 BMT-treated, 2/4 STN-DBS-treated) developed FOG during follow-up. STN-DBS-induced benefits on FOG were mostly mediated by baseline levodopa equivalent dose, altered medication-intake and reduced motor fluctuations.

Conclusions In contrast to continued BMT, STN-DBS reduced FOG occurrence and severity at 6 months postsurgery with largely sustained effects at 12 months follow-up. Longer follow-up periods are needed to test whether FOG improvements after STN-DBS persist with disease progression.

  • Movement Disorders
  • Neurosurgery
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Gait
  • Motor Control

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