Tests of walking balance for screening vestibular disorders

J Vestib Res. 2012 Jan 1;22(2):95-104. doi: 10.3233/VES-2012-0443.


Few reliable tests are available for screening people rapidly for vestibular disorders although such tests would be useful for a variety of testing situations. Balance testing is widely performed but of unknown value for screening. The goal of this study was to determine the value of tests of walking balance for screening people with vestibular impairments. We tested three groups of patients with known vestibular impairments: benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, unilateral vestibular weakness, and post-acoustic neuroma resection. We compared them to normal subjects. All subjects were independently ambulatory without gait aids. Subjects were tested on tandem walking (TW) with eyes open and eyes closed for 10 steps, walking with no additional head motions and with augmented head rotations in yaw for 7 m (WwHT), and an obstacle avoidance task, the Functional Mobility Test (FMT). Subjects wore a 3-D motion sensor centered at mid-torso to capture kinematic measures. Patients and normals differed significantly on some behavioral measures, such as the number of steps to perform TW, and on some but not all kinematic measures. ROC analyses, however, were at best only moderate, and failed to find strong differences and cut-points that would differentiate the groups. These findings suggest that although patients and normals differ in performance of these tests in some interesting ways the groups are not sufficiently different on these tests for easy use as screening tests to differentiate the populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Neurological*
  • Female
  • Gait
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroma, Acoustic / diagnosis
  • Neuroma, Acoustic / physiopathology
  • Postural Balance*
  • ROC Curve
  • Vertigo / diagnosis
  • Vestibular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Walking*