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Research paper
Parkinson's disease beyond 20 years
  1. Roberto Cilia1,
  2. Emanuele Cereda2,
  3. Catherine Klersy3,
  4. Margherita Canesi1,
  5. Anna L Zecchinelli1,
  6. Claudio B Mariani1,
  7. Silvana Tesei1,
  8. Giorgio Sacilotto1,
  9. Nicoletta Meucci1,
  10. Michela Zini1,
  11. Claudio Ruffmann1,
  12. Ioannis U Isaias1,
  13. Stefano Goldwurm1,
  14. Gianni Pezzoli1
  1. 1Parkinson Institute, Istituti Clinici di Perfezionamento, Milano, Italy
  2. 2Nutrition and Dietetics Service, Fondazione IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo, Pavia, Italy
  3. 3Biometry and Clinical Epidemiology Service, Fondazione IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo, Pavia, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Dr Roberto Cilia, Parkinson Institute, Istituti Clinici di Perfezionamento, via Bignami 1, Milano 20126, Italy; roberto.cilia{at}


Background A very limited number of studies report data on the clinical features of Parkinson's disease (PD) 20 years after onset and beyond.

Objective To characterise PD 20 years after onset, investigating the impact of age at onset and disease duration on the clinical picture and the predictors of outcomes in patients reaching the 20-year time point.

Methods We conducted a retrospective, cross-sectional study and a longitudinal study. All case visits of patients with a disease duration ≥20 years (N=401) were stratified by disease duration (20–22, 23–25, ≥26 years) and by age at onset (cut-off, 50 years). Patients with a disease duration of 20–22 years (N=320) were prospectively followed up for a median of 45 months (IQR 23–89) for the new occurrence of fracture, percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy, institutionalisation, confinement to a wheelchair or bed and death.

Results Older age at onset and longer disease duration were independently associated with a higher prevalence of major motor and non-motor milestones of disease disability (no interaction observed). In the longitudinal study, the most frequent outcomes were death (N=92), confinement to a wheelchair or bed (N=67) and fracture (N=52). Mortality was associated with the gender: male, older age, dysphagia, orthostatic hypotension, postural instability, fractures and institutionalisation. Fracture was associated with postural instability. Predictors of permanent confinement to a wheelchair or bed were older age, postural instability and institutionalisation. Comorbid dementia at the 20-year examination did not predict any of the outcomes.

Conclusions Age at onset and disease duration are independent determinants of the clinical features of PD beyond 20 years. Non-motor symptoms depend more on age at onset rather than the disease duration itself. Non-levodopa-responsive axial symptoms are the main predictors of all relevant outcomes.


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