Quantitative assessment of upper limb functional impairments in people with Parkinson's disease

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In clinical routine, upper limb motor disorders of people with Parkinson's disease are commonly assessed using scale- or timed tests, but such tools are not fully suitable for providing detailed information about their type and magnitude. To partly overcome these limitations, the present study aims to quantitatively investigate upper limb functional impairments through quantitative analysis of the “hand-to-mouth” task.


Twenty-five individuals with Parkinson's disease and 20 age-matched healthy individuals underwent a kinematic analysis of the hand-to-mouth task from which spatio-temporal and kinematic measures, including summary measures (Arm Variable Score and Arm Profile Score), were calculated and correlated with clinical scores (Hoehn & Yahr, H&Y and the Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale, UPDRS).


The “hand-to-mouth” movement is significantly altered in individuals with Parkinson's disease, especially in terms of reduced velocity, reduced range of motion of elbow flexion-extension and deviation from a physiologic pattern (Arm Profile Score 12.8° vs. 10.1° of unaffected, P=0.002). Significant moderate correlations were found between movement duration and UPDRS-III (rho=0.478, P=0.001) and between the Arm Profile Score and H&Y (rho=0.481, P=0.024) and UPDRS-III (rho=0.326, P=0.001).


On the basis of such findings, we can state that the kinematic analysis of “hand-to-mouth” movement, and in particular the summary indexes, are suitable for easily representing upper limb movement alterations in people with Parkinson's disease, thus allowing the monitoring either of disease progression or effectiveness of pharmacologic and rehabilitative treatments.

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