Objectives: To compare and document balance performance between patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and healthy control subjects and balance performance among patients with different MS forms using a set of clinical balance tests.
Material and methods: Twenty eight primary progressive (PPMS), 34 secondary progressive (SPMS), and 62 relapsing remitting (RRMS), totalling 124 MS patients were included in the present study. Results from patients were compared with those of 31 healthy control subjects matching in age, gender, weight and height. Ashworth scale, mini-mental state examination and motricity index were used consecutively to evaluate spasticity, cognitive impairment and lower extremity muscle strength. Vision, sensation, proprioception, cerebellar and vestibular tests were also performed on the patients. The balance performance was evaluated using a set of clinical tests including steady stance tests (eyes in opened and closed positions, feet apart, feet together, stride stance, tandem stance and single stance), self-generated perturbations (functional reach, arm raise and step test), external perturbations, Tinetti-gait and 10 m gait time tests.
Results: There were no differences in age, sex, weight, height, sense impairment and lower extremity strength in patients with the three MS forms (p>0.05). No difference was found among patients with the three MS forms and the control subjects in the test of eyes closed with feet apart (p>0.05). The PPMS patients in all the balance tests except tests of eyes closed with feet apart and eyes opened with feet together, SPMS patients in all the balance tests except that of eyes closed with feet apart and RRMS patients in tandem stance, single leg stance, self-generated perturbations, external perturbations, Tinetti-gait and 10 m gait time tests had weaker balance than the control subjects (p<0.001). There were some differences between patients in the PPMS and SPMS groups in the eyes closed and feet apart test, between patients in the PPMS and RRMS groups in all the balance tests except eyes closed and feet apart and eyes opened and feet together tests and between patients in SPMS and RRMS group in all the balance tests except right and left arm raised tests (p<0.001).
Conclusion: Balance in MS patients is impaired. The results of the present study show that there is more impairment in progressive MS forms than in RRMS. Meanwhile, patients with progressive MS are more likely to fall.