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The prevalence of progressive supranuclear palsy (Steele-Richardson-Olszewski syndrome) in the UK

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Uma Nath, Emeritus Professor Richard Thomson, Professor David Burn


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We performed a study to estimate the point prevalence of progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) in the UK at national, regional and community levels. A 'Russian doll' design was used in which the population denominator for each of the three studies was successively smaller, whilst the method of case ascertainment became increasingly more rigorous. The NINDS-SPSP (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and the Society for Progressive Supranuclear Palsy) diagnostic criteria for PSP were applied throughout the study for case definition. The national study identified cases using passive referral mechanisms [e.g. the British Neurological Surveillance Unit (BNSU), PSP (Europe) Association patient register]. We identified 577 cases of PSP, giving a national prevalence estimate of 1.0 per 100 000 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.9-1.1]. The North of England regional study used active 'multiple source' case ascertainment from a collaborative network of neurologists and non-neurologists, We identified 80 cases of PSP in this study, giving a crude and age-adjusted prevalence of 3.1 (95% CI 2.4-3.8) and 2.4 (1.9-3.0) per 100 000, respectively. Of these 80 cases, 51 patients (65%) were referred initially to non-neurologists and 10 patients (13%) had not seen a neurologist at any stage of their illness. The proportion of female cases was significantly greater in the regional than in the national study (61% versus 44%; P < 0.02), Cases referred to non-neurologists were significantly older than those referred to neurologists in the regional study (median age 73 versus 69.5 years; P < 0.01). Patients in the community study were identified via diagnostic and therapeutic registers from a representative sample of general practices in Newcastle upon Tyne, We identified 17 cases of PSP, yielding crude and age-adjusted prevalences of 6.5 (95% CI 3.4-9.7) and 5.0 (95% CI 2.5-7.5) per 100 000, respectively. Seven of the 17 cases (41%) had not previously been diagnosed as PSP This study suggests that PSP is more common than previously considered, is commonly misdiagnosed and that the majority of cases are not initially referred to neurologists. The study also confirms the importance of active and detailed case ascertainment in ensuring reliable prevalence estimates.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Nath U, Ben-Shlomo Y, Thomson RG, Morris HR, Wood NW, Lees AJ, Burn DJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Brain

Year: 2001

Volume: 124

Issue: 7

Pages: 1438-1449

ISSN (print): 0006-8950

ISSN (electronic): 1460-2156

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/brain/124.7.1438


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