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Long-term locomotor training for gait and balance in a patient with mixed progressive supranuclear palsy and corticobasal degeneration.

Physical Therapy 2007 August
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and corticobasal degeneration (CBD) are slowly progressive tauopathies characterized by impaired balance, disturbances in gait, and frequent falls, among other features. Wheelchair dependence is an inevitable outcome in people with these disorders. Insufficient evidence exists regarding the effectiveness of exercise in the management of people with these disorders. This case report describes a program of exercise and long-term locomotor training, using a treadmill (both with and without body-weight support), to reduce falls and improve the balance and walking ability of a patient with mixed PSP and CBD features.

CASE DESCRIPTION: Six years after diagnosis with mixed PSP and CBD features, the client, a 72-year-old dentist, was seen for physical therapy for asymmetric limb apraxia, markedly impaired balance, and frequent falls during transitional movements.

INTERVENTION: Over a 2.5-year period, intervention included routine participation in an exercise group for people with Parkinson disease (mat exercise and treadmill training) and intermittent participation in individual locomotor training on a treadmill. The exercise group met for 1 hour, twice weekly. The individual treadmill sessions lasted 1 hour, once weekly, for two 14-week periods during the follow-up period.

OUTCOMES: Over the 2.5-year period, fall frequency decreased, and tests of functional balance showed improved limits of stability (functional reach tests) and maintained balance function (Berg Balance Scale). Tests of walking performance showed only slight declines. A 4-wheeled walker was introduced and accepted by the client early in the intervention period. The client, with supervision, remained ambulatory with this wheeled walker in the community.

DISCUSSION: In this case report of a person with mixed PSP and CBD features, a physical therapy intervention, which included locomotor training using a treadmill and a long-term exercise program of stretching and strengthening, appears to have improved some dimensions of balance, slowed the rate of gait decline, prevented progression to wheelchair dependence, and decreased falls. Contrary to the expected decline in function, this client maintained independent mobility over a 2.5-year period. An ongoing, intensive program of exercise and locomotor training may help people with PSP and CBD maintain upright balance, decrease falls, and decrease the rate of decline of ambulation.

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