Background: Neurologic abnormalities affecting gait occur early in several types of non-Alzheimer's dementias, but their value in predicting the development of dementia is uncertain. Methods: We analyzed the relation between neurologic gait status at base line and the development of dementia in a prospective study involving 422 subjects older than 75 years of age who lived in the community and did not have dementia at base line. Cox proportional-hazards regression analysis was used to calculate hazard ratios with adjustment for potential confounding demographic, medical, and cognitive variables. Results: At enrollment, 85 subjects had neurologic gait abnormalities of the following types: unsteady gait (in 31 subjects), frontal gait (in 12 subjects), hemiparetic gait (in 11 subjects), neuropathic gait (in 11 subjects), ataxic gait (in 10 subjects), parkinsonian gait (in 8 subjects), and spastic gait (in 2 subjects). During follow-up (median duration, 6.6 years), there were 125 newly diagnosed cases of dementia, 70 of them cases of Alzheimer's disease and 55 cases of non-Alzheimer's dementia (47 of which involved vascular dementia and 8 of which involved other types of dementia). Subjects with neurologic gait abnormalities had a greater risk of development of dementia (hazard ratio, 1.96 [95 percent confidence interval, 1.30 to 2.96]). These subjects had an increased risk of non-Alzheimer's dementia (hazard ratio, 3.51 [95 percent confidence interval, 1.98 to 6.24]), but not of Alzheimer's dementia (hazard ratio, 1.07 [95 percent confidence interval, 0.57 to 2.02]). Of non-Alzheimer's dementias, abnormal gait predicted the development of vascular dementia (hazard ratio, 3.46 [95 percent confidence interval, 1.86 to 6.42]). Among the types of abnormal gait, unsteady gait predicted vascular dementia (hazard ratio, 2.61), as did frontal gait (hazard ratio, 4.32) and hemiparetic gait (hazard ratio, 13.13). Conclusions: The presence of neurologic gait abnormalities in elderly persons without dementia at base line is a significant predictor of the risk of development of dementia, especially non-Alzheimer's dementia.
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