Diagnostic criteria for Parkinson's disease: From James Parkinson to the concept of prodromal disease

Luca Marsili, Giovanni Rizzo, Carlo Colosimo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The diagnosis of Parkinson's disease (PD) is based on clinical features and differently to the common opinion that detecting this condition is easy, seminal clinicopathological studies have shown that up one-fourth of patients diagnosed as PD during life has an alternative diagnosis at postmortem. The misdiagnosis is even higher when only the initial diagnosis is considered, since the diagnostic accuracy improves by time, during follow-up visits. Given that the confirmation of the diagnosis of PD can be only obtained through neuropathology, to improve and facilitate the diagnostic-therapeutic workup in PD, a number of criteria and guidelines have been introduced in the last three decades. In the present paper, we will critically re-appraise the main diagnostic criteria proposed for PD, with particular attention to the recently published criteria by the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society (MDS) task force, underlying their novelty and focusing on the diagnostic issues still open. We also emphasize that the MDS-PD criteria encompass the two main previous sets of diagnostic criteria (United Kingdom PD Society Brain Bank and Gelb's criteria), introducing at the same time new aspects as the use of non-motor symptoms as additional diagnostic features, and the adoption of the concept of prodromal PD, crucial to enroll in clinical trials PD patients in the very early phase of the disease. To better understand the real diffusion of the new MDS-PD diagnostic criteria among neurologists, we have also collected selective opinions of sixteen movement disorder experts from various world regions on their practical approach for the clinical diagnosis of PD. Results from this brief survey showed that, although innovative and complete, the revised diagnostic criteria produced by MDS task force are still scarcely employed among clinicians. We believe that both national and international scientific societies should operate in the future for a broader diffusion of these criteria with specific initiatives, including dedicated events and teaching courses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number156
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Issue numberMAR
Publication statusPublished - Mar 23 2018


  • James Parkinson
  • Parkinson's disease diagnostic criteria
  • Parkinson's disease guidelines
  • Preclinical Parkinson's disease
  • Prodromal Parkinson's disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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