Objective: To determine if the presence of an electromyographically demonstrated peripheral polyneuropathy involving the lower extremities is associated with falls.
Design: Case control study.
Setting: A University-based referral center.
Patients: Twenty-five patients with an axonal peripheral polyneuropathy affecting the lower extremities, demonstrated by electromyography more than 8 and less than 16 months before, and 25 age- and sex-matched controls who had normal electromyographic studies of the lower extremities during the same time period, were identified from a computer record of all electromyography results during the year prior to the study, using diagnostic codes and demographic data. Twenty-eight pairs were identified, 25 of whom completed the study.
Main outcome measures: Number of falls and resultant injuries during the year before the interview, and number of previously identified risk factors for falling, based on interview.
Results: Peripheral neuropathy was found to be significantly associated with falling (14/25, 56% vs 2/25, 8%--odds ratio 23.0, 95% confidence interval 2.5, > 100) and repetitive falling (10/25, 40% vs 1/25, 4%--odds ratio, 95% confidence interval 1.4, > 100). There was a trend toward increased injury requiring medical attention (5/25, 20% vs 0/25, 0%), but it did not reach statistical significance. Previously identified risk factors were not significantly more common in the peripheral neuropathy group.
Conclusion: An electromyographically identified peripheral neuropathy is strongly associated with and may be a risk factor for falls.