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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the author’s final published version in BMC Neurology, Volume 19, Issue 1, January 2019, Article number 1.

The published version is available at Copyright © Rakocevic et al.


BACKGROUND: Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS) is an under-diagnosed disorder that affects mobility and the quality of life of affected patients. The aim of the study is to describe the natural history of SPS, the extent of accumulated disability and the associated clinical and immunological features in patients followed for up to 8 years in a single center.

METHODS: Our collective cohort included 57 SPS patients. Additionally, 32 of these patients were examined every 6 months for a two-year period in a longitudinal study protocol, to assess disease progression using quantitative measures of stiffness and heightened sensitivity.

RESULTS: The most frequent initial symptom was leg stiffness, followed by paraspinal muscle rigidity and painful spasms in 95% of the patients. Although none of the patients required assistance for ambulation during the first 2 years of disease onset, 46 patients (80%) lost the ability to walk independently during our follow-up, despite symptomatic medications. In the longitudinal cohort, the number of stiff areas increased (p < 0.0001), consistent with worsening functional status and quality of life. High-titer anti-GAD antibodies were present in serum and CSF with elevated intrathecal GAD-specific IgG synthesis, but they did not correlate with clinical severity or progression.

CONCLUSIONS: This large study on SPS patients, combining an eight-year follow-up at a single center by the same leading neurologist and his team, is the first to provide longitudinal data in a large patient subgroup using objective clinical measures. One of the main findings is that SPS is a progressive disease leading to physical disability over time.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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