Clinical tools for assessing balance disorders

Neurophysiol Clin. 2008 Dec;38(6):439-45. doi: 10.1016/j.neucli.2008.09.008. Epub 2008 Oct 18.


Three main issues have to be addressed by the examination of a patient complaining from balance disorders: physiopathology and aetiology, severity and consequences, and evolution. A precise clinical analysis must be then conducted, including close anamnesis and clinical examination, with scale measurements depending on the objectives. Daily consequences can be assessed by the Dizziness Handicap Inventory, which considers a large field of daily activities. The International Classification of Functioning evaluates activities and participation, influence of environmental factors, and quality of life. Then, patient's examination aims at objectifying and measuring the balance disorder. Quantified measurement is possible even in a simple doctor's office. Clinical scales for balance assessment should be used for a standardized assessment and to allow comparison of different subjects. Although the Tinetti test is the most-widely used in older people, it is quite approximate. The Berg Balance Scale has also been first validated in older people, it is rather easy to use, but uncertainty between two close scores is frequent. The Timed Up-and-Go Test is the simplest one and probably the most reliable. The Unipodal Stance Testing is also a simple test and a good predictor of fall. The Functional Ambulation Classification focuses attention on the physical support needed by the patient during walking. The Postural Assessment Scale for Stroke Patients (PASS) is easy to use after a recent stroke. Instrumental analysis by means of static and dynamic platforms, often coupled together with accelerometers or video, can be used to complete the clinical examination. Its main interest is to contribute to give insight into physiologic and pathologic mechanisms underlying the postural trouble.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gait / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Posture / physiology
  • Sensation Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Sensation Disorders / physiopathology
  • Stroke / physiopathology