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J Neural Transm (2015) 122:253–256
DOI 10.1007/s00702-014-1245-8

NEUROLOGY AND PRECLINICAL NEUROLOGICAL STUDIES - SHORT COMMUNICATION

Amplitude-oriented exercise in Parkinson’s disease: a randomized
study comparing LSVT-BIG and a short training protocol
Georg Ebersbach • Ute Grust • Almut Ebersbach •
Brigitte Wegner • Florin Gandor • Andrea A. Ku¨hn

Received: 5 April 2014 / Accepted: 12 May 2014 / Published online: 29 May 2014
Ó Springer-Verlag Wien 2014

Abstract LSVT-BIG is an exercise for patients with
Parkinson’s disease (PD) comprising of 16 1-h sessions
within 4 weeks. LSVT-BIG was compared with a 2-week
short protocol (AOT-SP) consisting of 10 sessions with
identical exercises in 42 patients with PD. UPDRS-IIIscore was reduced by -6.6 in LSVT-BIG and -5.7 in
AOT-SP at follow-up after 16 weeks (p \ 0.001). Measures of motor performance were equally improved by
LSVT-BIG and AOT-SP but high-intensity LSVT-BIG was
more effective to obtain patient-perceived benefit.
Keywords Parkinson’s disease LSVT-BIG Exercise
Physiotherapy

(Tickle-Degnen et al. 2010). Recently, a technique named
‘‘LSVT-BIG’’, derived from the Lee Silverman Voice
Treatment (LSVT-LOUD), has been shown to improve
motor performance in PD (Farley et al. 2008; Ebersbach
et al. 2010). LSVT-BIG focuses on high-amplitude
movements which are trained with multiple repetitions,
high-intensity and increasing complexity. Intensity of
training has been postulated to be crucial for success of
LSVT-BIG, but the standard protocol comprising of 16 (4/
week for 4 weeks) individual 1-h therapy sessions is not
feasible for most in-patient settings and confers considerable time and economic burden in ambulatory treatment.
The aim of the current study was therefore to compare the
effects of the LSVT-BIG standard protocol with a shorter
protocol comprising of 10 (5/week for 2 weeks) sessions.

Introduction
Exercise is an established therapeutic adjunctive in Parkinson’s disease (PD) but little is known about dose–
response relationships of exercise in patients with PD

Electronic supplementary material The online version of this
article (doi:10.1007/s00702-014-1245-8) contains supplementary
material, which is available to authorized users.
G. Ebersbach (&) U. Grust A. Ebersbach F. Gandor
Fachkrankenhaus fu¨r Bewegungssto¨rungen/Parkinson,
Paracelsusring 6a, 14547 Beelitz-Heilsta¨tten, Germany
e-mail: ebersbach@parkinson-beelitz.de
B. Wegner
Institute of Medical Biometrics and Clinical Epidemiology,
Charite´ University Medicine, Berlin, Germany
A. A. Ku¨hn
Department of Neurology, Charite´ University Medicine Berlin,
Campus Virchow, Berlin, Germany

Methods
Patients
The study was approved by the local ethics committee and
written informed consent was obtained from each subject.
42 patients with PD referred from local outpatient
clinics and office-based physicians were enrolled between
4/2011 and 4/2012. Participants were required to fulfill
diagnostic criteria for idiopathic PD (Hughes et al. 1992).
Inclusion criteria comprised of Hoehn and Yahr stage I–III,
outpatient treatment and stable medication 4 weeks prior to
inclusion. Exclusion criteria were dementia (MMSE \ 25),
severe depression, disabling dyskinesia and co-morbidity
affecting mobility or ability to exercise. Patients were
randomly allocated by drawing lots to receive standard
LSVT-BIG training or identical exercises of amplitudeoriented training in a short protocol (AOT-SP).

123

254

Interventions
Five physiotherapists certified as LSVT-BIG instructordelivered training in two outpatient facilities (Berlin
and Beelitz). Patients assigned to LSVT-BIG standard
protocol received 16 1-h sessions (4/week for 4 weeks)
and patients allocated to AOT-SP received 10 1-h
sessions (5/week for 2 weeks). LSVT-BIG exercises
have previously been described in detail (Farley et al.
2008). In brief, 50 % of exercises consist of standardized whole-body exercises involving maximal
amplitude, repetitive multidirectional movements (e.g.,
stepping and reaching) and stretching. The second half
of exercise includes goal-directed activities of daily
living (ADL) according to individual needs and preferences (see details in supplementary files). BIG is
delivered one-to-one with intensive motivation and
feedback by the instructor. Patients are taught to use
bigger movements in routine activities to provide
continuous exercise in everyday movements.
Assessment procedures
Participants were assessed immediately before starting
active treatment (baseline) and 16 weeks after baseline
(follow-up). In addition, explorative assessments were
performed 4 weeks prior to baseline and immediately after
completing treatment.
The primary efficacy measure was the difference in
change from baseline in UPDRS-III-score between treatment groups at week 16. For blinded assessment of the
primary variable, patients were videotaped while performing all UPDRS-III items. Videos were then rated by an
experienced rater blinded to group allocation and time
point of examination. Rating of rigidity was facilitated by
brief comments from the person performing the physical
examination.
Secondary outcome variables included differences in
change from baseline to week 16 for the following
parameters: clinical global impression of change (CGI-C,
patient/physician), Parkinson’s disease questionnaire
(PDQ-39) (Jenkinson et al. 1997), timed up-and-go (TUG),
10-m walk, 6-min walk, assessment of step length with gait
analysis based on accelerometric recordings [RehaWatchÒ
gait analysis, HASOMED GmbH, Magdeburg, Germany
(Schwesig et al. 2010)] and arm mobility using the box and
block test (Mathiowetz et al. 1985). All tests were carried
out during the medication ‘‘ON’’ period.
Data analysis
Group (LSVT-BIG vs. AOT-SP) 9 time (baseline vs.
week 16) analysis of variance was used to assess treatment

123

G. Ebersbach et al.

effects and interactions between groups. Within-group
effects were analyzed with paired t tests. Chi-square tests
were used to compare CGI-C between groups. Alpha level
was set at 0.05 and all statistical tests were two-sided.
Outcome analyses were conducted on a per-protocol-basis
using SPSS software.
The study was powered to detect a difference of four
points in the UPDRS-III-score change with a power of
80 %, assuming a standard deviation of four at an alpha
level of 0.05. The power analysis determined that 17
patients per group were needed.

Results
Of 42 patients randomly assigned for treatment (21 in each
group), 34 subjects (17 per group) completed the study and
were available for follow-up at week 16. Dropouts were
due to disease not related to therapy (4), withdrawal of
consent (2) and non-compliance with the study protocol
(2).
In the final sample male/female ratio was 11/6 in LSVTBIG and 13/4 in AOT-SP, respectively. Mean age was
66.4 years in both groups (SD 6.9 in LSVT-BIG, 6.7 in
AOT-SP). Disease duration was 4 years (SD 2.4) in LSVTBIG and 4.2 (2.7) in AOT-SP. At baseline, mean levodopa
equivalence daily dosage (LEDD) was 557 mg in LSVTBIG and 429 mg in AOT-SP. Adjustments of dopaminergic
medication between baseline and week 16 occurred in two
subjects in LSVT-BIG and one subject in AOT-SP,
resulting in non-significant changes of mean LEDD (548
vs. 445 mg). There were no adverse events attributable to
the intervention.
Efficacy
ANOVA for UPDRS-III-score showed effects of time
(p \ 0.001, F 120.16) and no time 9 group interactions
(p 0.410, F 0.698). There was a group effect (p 0.0114) that
was not reproduced (p 0.248, F 1.385) when baseline
UPDRS-III-scores were included as a covariate
(ANCOVA). Similarly, ANOVA showed effects of time
for TUG (p \ 0.001, F 33.12), 10-m walk (p 0.001,
F 13.59), 6-min walk (p \ 0.001, F 18.01), step length
(p \ 0.001, F 22.67) and arm mobility (p \ 0.001,
F 38.67) and no group effects or time 9 group interactions
for these measures. Comparisons between baseline and
follow-up measures for each group are shown in Table 1.
PDQ-39-total-scores at baseline were 35.53 (16.1) in
LSVT-BIG and 29.3 (13.2) in AOT-SP and did not meet
the distributional assumptions for parametric analysis.
Changes at follow-up were numerically higher in LSVTBIG (-3.71 vs. -1.5) but Wilcoxon’s matched pairs tests

Amplitude-oriented exercise in PD

255

Table 1 Changes in outcome
measures following intervention

Baseline

Follow-up

Change

95 % CI

p

UPDRS-III
LSVT-BIG

18.2 (3.6)

11.6 (5.2)

-6.6

-8.5/-4.8

\0.001

AOT-SP

22.0 (5.4)

16.3 (5.1)

-5.7

-7.2/-4.2

\0.001

LSVT-BIG

9.4 (1.7)

8.1 (1.3)

-1.3

-1.8/-0.8

\0.001

AOT-SP

9.2 (1.2)

8.1 (1.5)

-1.1

-1.8/-0.4

0.005
\0.001

TUG (s)

Walk 10 m (s)
LSVT-BIG

7.3 (1.4)

5.8 (1.0)

-1.5

-2.1/-0.8

AOT-SP

7.6 (2.8)

6.1 (0.8)

-1.5

-3.1/0.1

0.060

Walk 6 min (m)
LSVT-BIG

488 (80)

545 (89)

58

31/84

\0.001

AOT-SP

520 (78)

552 (119)

32

-4/68

0.081

Box block test
101.9 (13.3)

110.8 (14.6)

8.8

4.3/13.1

\0.001

97.7 (13.4)

108.6 (11.3)

10.9

5.6/16.1

\0.001

LSVT-BIG

140.8 (16.1)

155.0 (20.8)

14.2

6.5/21.9

0.001

AOT-SP

140.9 (16.5)

151.1 (13.6)

10.3

2.3/18.2

0.015

LSVT-BIG
AOT-SP
Step length
AOT-SP amplitude-oriented
training-short protocol, TUG
timed up-and-go

performed separately for each group did not show effects
of treatment (LSVT-BIG: p 0.351; AOT-SP: p 0.534).
Patient CGI-C differed between groups (p 0.005, Fisher’s exact test) with 70.6 % of patients reporting to be
‘‘much improved’’ or ‘‘very much improved’’ in LSVTBIG and only 17.6 % in AOT-SP (Fig. 1). A corresponding
tendency was also found in physician CGI-C (68.8 vs.
28.6 %, p 0.090).

Discussion
In the present prospective controlled, rater-blinded study,
LSVT-BIG led to improved motor performance in patients

Fig. 1 Patients clinical global impression of change from baseline to
week 16 (in percent). LSVT-BIG standard protocol, AOT-SP amplitude oriented training short protocol

with PD that was comparable to the effect reported in our
previous study (Ebersbach et al. 2010). Changes in motor
assessments did not differ between patients following the
standard LSVT-BIG protocol and those receiving a smaller
amount of training sessions. These findings oppose an
expected dose dependency of therapy that would have
favored the standard LSVT-BIG protocol.
In contrast to motor examination, clinical global
impression strongly favored the standard protocol. The
dependency of motor performance in PD on attention
and situational circumstances is a possible reason for
this discrepancy. It has been shown that patients with
PD walk faster and with larger steps when concentrating on their performance but return to bradykinetic
gait when attention is distracted from movement
execution (Morris et al. 1996; Rochester et al. 2010).
The underlying problem is that skill acquisition may
be preserved but the ability to transfer skills to
automatic routines is impaired (Rochester et al. 2010;
Wu and Hallett 2008). Motor assessments in the
present study were, as usual, carried out in a laboratory environment. It is therefore conceivable that
patients were more attentive towards motor performance under these circumstances. Evidently, patients
in the short protocol were enabled to perform highamplitude movements as exercised during the LSVTBIG training sessions while being under examination.
Yet, the reduced training intensity of AOT-SP may
not have been sufficient enough to obtain the main
goal of LSVT-BIG, i.e., recalibrating movement
amplitude to secure improved motor performance in

123

256

routine activities without attentiveness towards
movement execution (Farley et al. 2008). Results from
a PET study showed that LSVT is associated with a
shift of cortical motor activation towards subcortical
areas suggesting that more ‘‘automatic’’ motor processing can be achieved (Liotti et al. 2003). Covert
observation of routine activities would be necessary to
corroborate the hypothesis that only the standard
LSVT-BIG and not the short protocol provides
meaningful impact on ‘‘automatic’’ routine motor
activities, as suggested by the difference of CGI
between groups. A limitation of the present approach
is that we cannot exclude that nonspecific factors such
as more intense attention to the patient in the LSVTBIG group or biased expectations of patients and
therapists were responsible for differences in CGI.
Furthermore, generalizability of our findings is limited
by sample size.
Further studies addressing the possible bias inferred by
influence of laboratory conditions on motor performance in
PD are warranted. In addition, there is need to focus on
effects of exercise on patient-reported outcomes in PD as
emphasized in a recent Cochrane review (Tomlinson et al.
2012). In spite of comparable outcome of clinician-rated
UPDRS scores and laboratory motor assessments, we recommend to deliver LSVT-BIG according to the standard
protocol since shorter training routines are less likely to
provide patient-perceived improvement.
Acknowledgments We thank Deutsche Parkinson Gesellschaft for
financial and organizational support. We also thank Heike Unger and
physiotherapists in Beelitz-Heilsta¨tten for skillfully exercising participants. This work was supported by an unrestricted Grant from
Deutsche Parkinson Gesellschaft.
Conflict of interest The authors have no financial disclosures to
make and no conflict of interest to report with respect to the research
reported in this manuscript.

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G. Ebersbach et al.

References
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