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Progressive supranuclear palsy: diagnosis and management
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  • Published on:
    Response to article by Rowe et al

    To the editor

    Although Rowe and colleagues make it clear that the most important purpose of their review is to cover the neglected aspect of management of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (1) they also describe the disorder’s clinical symptoms and signs and its differential diagnosis in some detail. In this section of the article they fail to mention two simple bedside tests which I have found particularly useful over the years in making me more certain about my diagnosis. In those patients where Parkinson’s disease is the main differential diagnosis sequential finger tapping for 20 seconds is frequently informative. A progressive reduction in speed and amplitude ( ‘the sequence effect’) is a sine qua non for Parkinson’s disease but is rarely found in Progressive Supranuclear Palsy where marked reduction in amplitude of finger taps without decrement and preserved speed of movement is much more usual (2). Utilisation and imitation behaviour (3, 4) and the applause sign (5), all indicative of prefrontal lobe dysfunction, are very common in fully established Richardson’s syndrome but I have also found them to be sometimes present early on particularly when abulia or behavioural abnormalities are presenting complaints. The grasp reflex on the other hand is not commonly observed
    The diagnosis of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy is difficult and uncertainty is common particularly in the early stages. To retract a diagnosis of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy is tri...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.
  • Published on:
    Response to Response by A Lees
    • James Rowe, Dr University of Cambridge
    • Other Contributors:
      • Tim Rittman, Dr
      • Negin Holland, Dr

    To the Editor,

    We agree with Andrew Lees on the value of the applause sign (i.e. ask a PSP patient to clap 3 times, and they typically perseverative by clapping more than 3 times) and a lack of decrement on hypokinesia tests (e.g. sequential finger tapping or in micrographic writing, without a progressive reduction in amplitude) to differentiate Progressive Supranuclear Palsy from Parkinson’s disease. Both are very useful, easy bedside tests.

    We also agree that there are cases where one is unsure. A diagnosis of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy is not to be given lightly, as for any other disease. But, patients with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy have suffered disproportionately from delays and diagnostic hesitation, often long past any reasonable doubt. It does not help a patient or family to live with a wrong diagnosis, or no diagnosis, for a large part of their illness. Across many countries, the diagnosis of PSP is made at around three years from symptom onset (Murley et al, 2021; Cosseddu et al 2017; Mamarabadi et al, 2018). In other words, halfway from onset to death. This is unnecessarily long. Greater awareness and simple clinical skills can reduce the diagnostic delay by more than a year (Mamarabadi et al, 2018). Through our article, we hope our colleagues can become more confident, early and accurate in making the diagnosis of PSP as a gateway to better care.

    James Rowe, Tim Rittman and Negin Holland


    Mamarabadi M, R...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.

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