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Background: One of the core clinical features of dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is extrapyramidal syndrome (EPS). Levodopa is currently the gold standard oral therapy for Parkinson's disease (PD), but its use in DLB has been tempered by concerns of exacerbating neuropsychiatric symptoms.
Aim: To assess the efficacy and tolerability of L-dopa in managing EPS in DLB and to compare the motor response with that seen in PD and PD with dementia (PDD).
Method: EPS assessment consisted of the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale, motor subsection (UPDRS III), and finger tapping and walking tests. Patients with DLB were commenced on L-dopa. After 6 months, patients were examined in the "off" state, given L-dopa and assessed for motor responses. Identical assessments were performed in patients with PD and PDD also receiving L-dopa.
Results: Acute L-dopa challenge in 14 DLB patients yielded a mean 13.8% (p = 0.02) improvement in UPDRS III score, compared with 20.5% in PD (n = 28, p<0.0001) and 23% in PDD (n = 30, p<0.0001) respectively. Finger tapping scores increased (12.3% v 20% and 23%), while walking test scores decreased (32% v 41% and 67%). Of the DLB patients, 36% were classified as "responders" on L-dopa challenge, compared with 70% of the PDD and 57% of the PD patients. Nineteen DLB patients were treated for 6 months with L-dopa (mean daily dose 323 mg). Two withdrew prematurely with gastrointestinal symptoms and two with worsening confusion.
Conclusion: L-dopa was generally well tolerated in DLB but produced a significant motor response in only about one third of patients. Younger DLB cases were more likely to respond to dopaminergic treatment.