Evaluating walking in patients with multiple sclerosis: which assessment tools are useful in clinical practice?

Int J MS Care. 2011 Spring;13(1):4-14. doi: 10.7224/1537-2073-13.1.4.


Walking limitations are among the most visible manifestations of multiple sclerosis (MS). Regular walking assessments should be a component of patient management and require instruments that are appropriate from the clinician's and the patient's perspectives. This article reviews frequently used instruments to assess walking in patients with MS, with emphasis on their validity, reliability, and practicality in the clinical setting. Relevant articles were identified based on PubMed searches using the following terms: "multiple sclerosis AND (walking OR gait OR mobility OR physical activity) AND (disability evaluation)"; references of relevant articles were also searched. Although many clinician- and patient-driven instruments are available, not all have been validated in MS, and some are not sensitive enough to detect small but clinically important changes. Choosing among these depends on what needs to be measured, psychometric properties, the clinical relevance of results, and practicality with respect to space, time, and patient burden. Of the instruments available, the clinician-observed Timed 25-Foot Walk and patient self-report 12-Item Multiple Sclerosis Walking Scale have properties that make them suitable for routine evaluation of walking performance. The Dynamic Gait Index and the Timed Up and Go test involve other aspects of mobility, including balance. Tests of endurance, such as the 2- or 6-Minute Walk, may provide information on motor fatigue not captured by other tests. Quantitative measurement of gait kinetics and kinematics, and recordings of mobility in the patient's environment via accelerometry or Global Positioning System odometry, are currently not routinely used in the clinical setting.