Brain white-matter changes in the elderly prone to falling

Arch Neurol. 1989 Dec;46(12):1292-6. doi: 10.1001/archneur.1989.00520480034016.


Falls and impaired gait are a major source of morbidity in the elderly. Why some elderly become prone to falling is often unclear. We analyzed the gait, equilibrium, and brain computed tomography results of 40 elderly subjects without evidence of neurologic disease known to be associated with falls. Twenty of these subjects were prone to falling and the remaining 20 were nonfalling controls. These two groups were comparable in terms of age and sex (mean age, 83.3 years [SE, 1.7 years]). The group of fallers had significantly worse gait and equilibrium scores and a greater degree of white-matter hypodensity on computed tomography. White-matter hypodensity correlated with impaired gait and equilibrium scores but not with impaired performance on cognitive testing. This study reveals the association of white-matter disease with gait and balance impairment leading to falls in the elderly.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls*
  • Accidents*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Postural Balance / physiology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed