Podcast Episode 83: Staging PD – UPDRS: What it Measures and What Your Score Means

Disease rating scales give clinicians a snapshot in time of the severity of a disease, how it may be affecting a patient, and areas where therapies may be applied. Put together over time, rating scale results can indicate the progression of a disease and possibly help with long term planning. In the case of Parkinson’s disease (PD), the Hoehn and Yahr scale, published in 1967, describes the progression of PD according to five stages from earliest to most advanced, based on severity of symptoms and level of disability. The Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) consists of four parts, each of which encompasses several subparts to give an overall total score reflecting the severity of a person’s disease. In 2001, the Movement Disorder Society (MDS) took input from patients and care partners to incorporate into the UPDRS what was important to them and in 2008 published the revised MDS-UPDRS rating scale. Besides evaluating any one person’s disease, rating scales provide criteria for enrollment in clinical trials and help to compare trials and outcomes.

Although rating scales are important tools, and people with PD and their care partners want a gauge of their disease, often people tend to focus too heavily on the numbers whereas what is most important is how the disease is affecting them and how they cope with it. In this episode, Dr. Nina Browner, director of the Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, gives her expert perspective on the use of rating scales and how people with PD may better understand their applicability and how much weight to give the numbers.

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About This Episode

Released: June 16, 2020

NinaNina Browner, MD

Dr. Nina Browner is Bryson Distinguished Associate Professor of Neurology and Director of the Parkinson Foundation Center of Excellence at the University of North Carolina.  She also serves as Vice Chair for Education for the Department of Neurology and Program Director for Neurology Residency at the University of North Carolina.

After graduating from the Moscow Medical Academy in Moscow, Russia, Dr. Browner received prestigious Research Presidential Scholarship of the Russian Federation and spent two years at Johns Hopkins University as a post - doctoral fellow doing research in functional MRI and Parkinson’s disease.  She then completed neurology residency at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio and her fellowship in Movement Disorders with Dr. Stanley Fahn at the Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York.  

Dr. Browner divides her time between patient care and clinical research. Her research interests include innovative care models for patients with neurodegenerative diseases, gait abnormalities in patients with Parkinson’s disease and cognitive changes on different stages of Parkinson’s disease. In addition to her dual roles of clinician and researcher, Dr. Browner mentors medical students and neurology residents. She had been awarded Collin Hall Award in Teaching Excellence from the Department of Neurology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill as well as 2020 A.B. Baker Teacher Recognition Award from the American Academy of Neurology.

This episode is supported by a grant from Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.

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