August 12, 2011

Neurologists = Longer Life for Parkinson’s Patients?

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Patients with Parkinson's disease who see a neurologist are more likely to live longer and less likely to be put in a nursing home facility, according to new research.

Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder that leads to shaking (tremors) and difficulty with walking, movement, and coordination.

Investigators examined 138,000 people who were diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2002. They found 68 percent of these patients were seen by a neurologist from 2002-2005. Women were 22-percent likely to see a neurologist than men, and minorities were 17-percent less likely to see a neurologist compared to Caucasians.

Results showed patients who were seen by a neurologist were 20-percent less likely to die over a six-year period than those seen by primary care physicians. Also, patients seen by a neurologist were 20-percent less likely to be placed in a nursing home and 14-percent less likely to break a hip.

"If these findings are confirmed in future studies, they will have important policy implications," James F. Burke, M.D., of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, wrote in an editorial about the study. "Disparities in access to care should become a pressing priority if these limits to access are associated with worse outcomes. Policy changes could focus on improving access to neurologists or on improving the knowledge and care given by primary care physicians."

Researchers say one limitation of their study was it did not take the severity of the disease into account.

SOURCE: Neurology, Aug. 12, 2011