The inconsistency and instability of Parkinson's disease motor subtypes

R. von Coelln, A. L. Gruber-Baldini, S. G. Reich, M. J. Armstrong, J. M. Savitt, L. M. Shulman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Tremor-dominant (TD), indeterminate/mixed (ID/M) and postural instability gait difficulty/akinetic-rigid (PIGD/AR) are commonly used subtypes to categorize Parkinson's disease (PD) patients based on their most prominent motor signs. Three different algorithms to determine these motor subtypes are used. Here, we examined if PD subtypes are consistent among algorithms and if subtype stability over time depends on the applied algorithm. Methods: Using a large longitudinal PD database, we applied 3 published algorithms of PD motor subtype classification in two sets of analyses: 1) cross-sectional analysis in 1185 patients, determining the prevalence of subtypes in 5-year intervals of disease duration; 2) longitudinal analysis of 178 patients, comparing subtypes of individual patients at baseline (within 5 years of diagnosis) and at follow-up ≥ 5 years after baseline. Results: Cross-sectionally, prevalence of subtypes varied widely among the 3 algorithms: 5–32% TD, 9–31% ID/M, and 59–75% PIGD/AR. For all 3 algorithms, cross-sectional analysis showed a marked decline of TD prevalence with disease duration and a corresponding increase in PIGD/AR prevalence, driven by increasing gait/balance scores over time. Longitudinally, only 15–36% of baseline TD patients were still categorized as TD at 6.2 ± 1.0 years of follow-up. In 15–39% of baseline TD patients, the subtype changed to ID/M, and 46–50% changed to PIGD/AR. This shift was observed using all 3 algorithms. Conclusion: PD motor subtypes determined by different established algorithms are inconsistent and unstable over time. Lack of subtype fidelity should be considered when interpreting biomarker-subtype correlation and highlights the need for better definition of PD subtypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-18
Number of pages6
JournalParkinsonism and Related Disorders
StatePublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Inconsistency
  • Instability
  • Motor subtype
  • Postural instability gait difficulty
  • Tremor-dominant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'The inconsistency and instability of Parkinson's disease motor subtypes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this