Background: Patients with age-related white matter changes (ARWMC) frequently present a gait disorder, depression and cognitive impairment. Our aims are to define which alterations in the gait parameters are associated with motor or neuro-psychological impairment and to assess the role of motor, mood
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Background: Patients with age-related white matter changes (ARWMC) frequently present a gait disorder, depression and cognitive impairment. Our aims are to define which alterations in the gait parameters are associated with motor or neuro-psychological impairment and to assess the role of motor, mood or cognitive dysfunction in explaining the variance of the gait parameters. Methods: Patients with gait disorders admitted to a Neuro-rehabilitation Department, affected by vascular leukoencephalopathy who had ARWMC confirmed by a brain MRI, were consecutively enrolled, classified by a neuroradiological scale (Fazekas 1987) and compared to healthy controls. We excluded subjects unable to walk independently, subjects with hydrocephalus or severe aphasia, with orthopaedic and other neurological pathologies conditioning the walking pattern. Patients and controls were assessed by clinical and functional scales (Mini Mental State Examination, Geriatric Depression Scale, Nevitt Motor Performance Scale, Berg Balance Scale, Functional Independence Measure), and computerised gait analysis was performed to assess the spatial and temporal gait parameters in a cross-sectional study. Results: We recruited 76 patients (48 males, aged 78.3 ± 6.2 years) and 14 controls (6 males, aged 75.8 ± 5 years). In the multiple regression analysis, the gait parameter with overall best model summary values, associated with the ARWMC severity, was the stride length even after correction for age, sex, weight and height (R2
= 0.327). The motor performances justified at least in part of the gait disorder (R2
change = 0.220), but the mood state accounted independently for gait alterations (R2
change = 0.039). The increase in ARWMC severity, the reduction of motor performance and a depressed mood state were associated with a reduction of stride length (R = 0.766, R2
= 0.587), reduction of gait speed (R2
= 0.573) and an increase in double support time (R2
= 0.421). Conclusion: The gait disorders in patients with ARWMC are related to motor impairment, but the presence of depression is an independent factor for determining gait alterations and functional status. These data pave the way for longitudinal studies, including gait parameters, to quantitatively assess gait changes after treatment or to monitor the natural progression of the gait disorders.