August 17, 2011

New Study Reports Benefits of Seeing a Neurologist for People with Parkinson's

The August 10, 2011 online issue of Neurology reports that people with Parkinson’s Disease are likely to live longer, and avoid nursing homes and hip fractures if they see a neurologist than are their counterparts who see a primary care physician. That publication is the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN).

Based on the Medicare records of 138,000 people diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2002, the study reported that the 68% of that group who saw a neurologist between 2002 and 2005 were 20% less likely to die within six years, 20% less likely to be moved into nursing homes, and 14% less likely to suffer hip fractures than those PD patients in their group attended by a primary care physician.

Men and Caucasians were more likely to see a neurologist than women and minorities, the study found, even after making adjustments for age, socioeconomic status, and health.

AAN member Dr. Allison Wright Willis of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis wrote the study, which she said has important implications:

We need to understand how care may affect people's health care outcomes to improve the quality of life for people with Parkinson's and also to minimize any avoidable health care costs. Of course, the benefit to people with Parkinson's disease and their families of avoiding a hip fracture or delaying the need for nursing home placement is immeasurable.
James F. Burke, MD, at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and AAN member, wrote:

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.
Burke also noted that this study did not account for disease severity, a limitation that might have affected its results.

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