Parkinson’s increases risk for orthopaedic conditions



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Although Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurological disorder, according to an article in the January 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the disease also increases a person’s risk of experiencing complicated orthopaedic conditions.

The author recommends that all Parkinson’s treatment plans include a multidisciplinary approach in order to address additional accompanying musculoskeletal health issues.

According to the author Lee M. Zuckerman, MD, Chief Resident of orthopaedic surgery, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, in Brooklyn, New York, tremors, body rigidity, and problems with movement caused by PD may lead to other secondary, medical issues. One often-noted example relates to the fact that people with Parkinson’s often move and walk less than non-suffers and generally stay indoors. Decreased movement may lead to bone loss, and the reduced exposure to sunlight that generally occurs when patients spend little time outdoors is likely to generate a decrease in vitamin D, which is needed to keep bones strong. This is particularly harmful to Parkinson’s patients, since the combination of decreased bone density and instability from tremors and rigidity caused by PD greatly increase a person’s risk of:

  • Falling
  • Breaking bones
  • Osteoporosis

Ensuring family members are involved in care, can have a positive impact on patient health. Dr. Zuckerman says, “I recommend patients and their families read up on Parkinson’s disease so they can prepare themselves for the challenges that come with it. This type of early education is important, because it can prevent these secondary problems from occurring. For instance checking bone mineral density and getting treatment for at-risk patients can help reduce the risk of fracture.”

Recommended actions to prevent orthopaedic problems in Parkinson’s disease include:

  • Bone density treatment
  • Physical therapy
  • Vitamin therapy
  • Medication to increase bone density
  • Optimizing therapies for gait and rigidity

The author recommends that patients with PD, who are being treated by an orthopaedic surgeon, should also be treated by a medical team that includes a neurologist, a neurosurgeon, a primary care physician, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician, and a social worker. Including family members can ease the complexity of care by ensuring the patient is seeing the correct doctors while getting referrals to other members of the multidisciplinary team.

Although there are surgical treatments for orthopaedic conditions experienced by people with PD, the disease can have a negative effect on recovery. In one example, the tremors associated with PD have been shown to interfere with the repair and rehabilitation of bone injuries. Those who have had a joint replacement are often relieved of pain and initially have improvements in mobility, but these improvements only last about a year.

Dr. Zuckerman comments: “Whether this is because the disease is progressing or because the rehabilitation was insufficient is unclear. So patients now have to decide what they want to accomplish - more mobility or decreased pain. They have to know that although their pain level should improve, their function may get worse after a year.”

Treatments for PD patients have allowed them to live longer lives with improved quality of life. As these patients age, there are strong predictions that there will be an increased need for medical and surgical interventions for complicated orthopaedic issues.

Disclosure: Neither Dr. Zuckerman nor a member of his immediate family, has received anything of value from, or owns stock in, a commercial company or institution related directly or indirectly to the subject of this article.

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