Physical Therapy and Deep Brain Stimulation in Parkinson Disease

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While deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus (STN-DBS) is commonly used to reduce tremor, muscle stiffness, and bradykinesia in people with Parkinson disease (PD), preliminary studies suggest balance may worsen and falls may increase after STN-DBS. Walking speed, known to be reduced in PD, typically improves after surgery; however, other important gait qualities may not improve. Given the potential for worsening balance and gait and increasing falls after surgery, it is imperative that researchers explore interventions that complement the positive effects of STN-DBS and delay worsening of balance and gait.

Physical therapy (PT) is reported to be effective in improving balance and walking in people with PD. However, there have been no studies to investigate how individuals with STN-DBS respond to PT. As such, it is unclear if exercise in the post-DBS population is safe, feasible, and effective. The purpose of this study is to examine the safety, feasibility, and efficacy of PT in people with PD with STN-DBS.

The investigators hypothesize that PT will be safe and feasible for people with PD with STN-DBS. Further, the investigators hypothesize that those assigned to PT group will demonstrate improvements in balance and gait while those assigned to the control group will demonstrate no change or a decline in balance and gait.