Parkinson’s Disease

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a brain disorder. It occurs when some of the nerve cells in part of the brain stop making an important brain chemical called dopamine. Dopamine normally allows for smooth movement of the body by coordinating muscle actions. Without enough dopamine, brain cells fire out of control and you lose the ability to control muscle movements. As a result, you may have stiff muscles, uncontrolled shaking (tremor), and trouble walking and balancing.

Parkinson’s disease is a disease without a cure and one that gets worse over time. How severe and which symptoms are worse than others is different from patient to patient.

What can I expect in the hospital?

You may need to stay in the hospital because:

  • You have a medical condition which is making your Parkinson’s symptoms worse
  • You have symptoms of Parkinson’s disease which need immediate treatment or an adjustment to your treatment
  • You have fallen or injured yourself due to Parkinson’s symptoms
  • You have chosen to have surgery to treat your Parkinson’s symptoms

Several things may be done while you are in the hospital to monitor, test, and treat your condition. They include:


  • You will be checked often by the hospital staff.
  • Your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature will be checked regularly.
  • Your blood oxygen level may be monitored by a sensor that is attached to your finger or earlobe.
  • Your strength, range of motion, and ability to feel pain will be checked regularly.


There are no tests that can confirm the diagnosis of PD. However, tests may be done to rule out other diseases. If other medical conditions have been ruled out, Parkinson’s disease may be diagnosed based on your symptoms. Testing may include:

  • Blood tests to check for infection
  • Blood, urine, or other tests to monitor how well your organs are functioning and check for other conditions that may be causing your symptoms
  • Neurologic examination: Testing to check your strength, sensation, balance, reflexes, and memory. This will include looking at your eyes with a flashlight to see if your pupils are the same size.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A powerful magnetic field and radio waves are used to take pictures from different angles to show thin cross sections of the brain
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: A series of X-rays taken from different angles and arranged by a computer to show thin cross sections of the brain


The treatment for Parkinson’s depends on your symptoms and how well you respond to treatment.

  • You will have a small tube (IV catheter) inserted into a vein in your hand or arm. This will allow medicine to be given directly into your blood and to give you fluids, if needed.
  • Your provider may prescribe medicines to:
    • Help the body make and use dopamine effectively
    • Control tremors and reduce other symptoms of Parkinson’s
  • You may start a rehabilitation program while you are in the hospital to help you have better use and control of your muscles. The rehabilitation program may include:
    • Physical therapy to help you regain muscle strength and teach you ways to move safely
    • Occupational therapy to help you learn to adapt to your symptoms and do tasks safely
    • Speech therapy to help you if you have problems with swallowing or speaking
  • You may have brain surgery called deep brain stimulation to help control the advanced symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Deep brain stimulation is a surgical procedure in which a very thin wire (electrode) is placed into the part of the brain causing Parkinson’s symptoms and that runs under the skin to a very small machine (neurostimulator) placed under the skin in your upper chest. The neurostimulator sends small electrical signals to the electrode to block nerve signals that cause PD symptoms. Surgery is not a cure and is usually only considered if medicines do not help.

What can I do to help?

  • You will need to tell your healthcare team if you have new or worsening:
    • Shaking (tremor)
    • Rigidity (looking and feeling stiff and unable to start moving)
    • Slowed-down movements
    • Loss of balance or coordination
    • Drooling
    • Trouble swallowing
    • Trouble thinking clearly or remembering
    • Abdominal cramps or pain
    • Side effects from your medicine, such as nausea, dizziness, and mental changes, such as hallucinations
    • Depression
    • Loss of bladder control
  • Ask questions about any medicine or treatment or information that you do not understand.

How long will I be in the hospital?

How long you stay in the hospital depends on many factors. The average amount of time to stay in the hospital with Parkinson’s disease is 3 to 4 days.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-04-30
Last reviewed: 2014-04-24
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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