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May 23, 1994

Clinical Assessment of Extrapyramidal Signs in Nursing Home Patients Given Antipsychotic Medication

Author Affiliations

From the Program for the Analysis of Clinical Strategies, Department of Medicine, and the Claude Pepper Geriatric Research and Training Center, Harvard Medical School (Drs Avorn, Monane, Everitt, Beers, and Fields), and the Gerontology Division, Brigham and Women's Hospital (Drs Avorn and Monane) Boston, Mass.

Arch Intern Med. 1994;154(10):1113-1117. doi:10.1001/archinte.1994.00420100093012

Background:  We sought to quantify the relationship between antipsychotic drug use and clinical evidence of extrapyramidal dysfunction in a large population of elderly nursing home patients.

Methods:  Subjects were 251 residents (mean age, 84.1 years; range, 65 to 105 years) who were taking psychoactive drugs in 12 long-term care facilities. Patient characteristics and all medication use (both scheduled and as needed) were measured during a 1-month observation period. We then performed neuropsychological and functional testing on residents who received any psychoactive medications during the study month. The presence of rigidity, bradykinesia, or masklike facies was assessed in each patient by a research assistant who was unaware of diagnoses and medication use.

Results:  The parkinsonian signs studied were found in 127 (50.6%) of these residents. Using logistic regression modeling to adjust for potential confounding, we found this outcome to be increased more than threefold in patients who took low-potency neuroleptics (odds ratio [OR], 3.49 for ≥50 mg/d of chlorpromazine-type drugs; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.28 to 9.57) and more than sixfold for use of 1 mg/d or more of haloperidol (OR, 6.42; 95% CI, 2.16 to 19.04). Age, gender, and use of nonneuroleptic psychoactive drugs were not associated with an increase in parkinsonian signs.

Conclusions:  Clinical evidence of extrapyramidal dysfunction is three to six times more common in institutionalized elderly patients given antipsychotic medication than in comparable patients not using such drugs. Its risk is substantially increased even in patients given low-potency chlorpromazine-type drugs, as well as those taking haloperidol. The effect is not explained by age or mental status and is not seen with other psychoactive medications. The expected frequency of parkinsonian symptoms can help to inform the balancing of risks vs therapeutic effect when the use of all drugs in this class is considered.(Arch Intern Med. 1994;154:1113-1117)

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