Movement Disorder Specialists
Photo by Ben Hoffmann
Neurologists with specialized training in movement disorders draw on a wide range of options to help people with Parkinson’s disease achieve the highest possible quality of life. “Optimal treatment may not be all about medication alone,” says Albert Hung, M.D., director of the National Parkinson Foundation Center of Excellence at Massachusetts General Hospital and assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.
Q. How does a movement disorder specialist differ from a general neurologist?
A. Movement disorder specialists do an additional year or two of training specifically with patients with Parkinson’s and other movement issues. As a result, their practices are really focused on patients with those disorders. We review diagnoses and histories to get a sense from the patient’s perspective of which symptoms are particularly troubling or limiting in their day-to-day activities. Then we figure out ways to optimize treatment. Also, movement disorder specialists often have access to treatment options and specialty care—as well as opportunities for clinical trial participation—that may not be available to general neurologists.
Q. Can you give some examples of those options?
A. As a specialty clinic, we help evaluate people for treatment options beyond medication. Some patients may be candidates for deep brain stimulation surgery. If a patient may benefit from other interventions, I can provide referrals to specialized physical or occupational therapists, social workers, mental health professionals or other helpful resources.
Q. How often do people see a specialist?
A. Our role in patients’ care varies, and it’s often a matter of logistics. If people can come into my clinic regularly, for example, I may be their primary neurologist. If they live far away, I may see them every six or 12 months in addition to their receiving care from a general neurologist.
Q. When should people with Parkinson’s disease consider seeing a movement disorder specialist?
A. Developing a relationship with a specialist early on in treatment can be helpful. In my experience, it gives me a better sense of how their condition has evolved over time and how symptoms affect their lifestyle. That information can be valuable down the road. Plus, early referral may give patients opportunities to participate in trials they may not be candidates for later on. If you’re considering seeing a movement disorder specialist, talk to your neurologist.
Want to find a specialist? Visit Parkinson.org to locate your nearest NPF Center of Excellence. Just click Find Resources. They can improve your treatment and expand your therapeutic options. Dr. Albert Hung covers the basics.
Originally printed in MoreThanMotion, Summer 2014.