The effect of dual-task testing on the balance and gait of people with lower limb amputations: A systematic review

PM R. 2021 Aug 31. doi: 10.1002/pmrj.12702. Online ahead of print.


Objective: To systematically review the literature on the effect of dual-task testing on the balance and gait of people with lower limb amputations (PLLA).

Literature survey: Databases MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Web of Science, and Scopus were searched in duplicate (inception to December 1, 2020).

Methodology: Inclusion criteria: participants were adults with transtibial, knee-disarticulation, transfemoral, or bilateral lower limb amputations; balance or gait was paired with a secondary task; and studies were peer-reviewed and published in English. Two authors independently reviewed articles and consensus was required. A standardized data extraction sheet was used to gather study relevant information in duplicate. Methodological quality of reporting was examined using the Downs and Black Scale. A meta-analysis was unable to be performed owing to substantial participant and protocol heterogeneity among the studies included.

Synthesis: Of 3950 articles screened, 22 met inclusion criteria. Four assessed dual-task balance and 18 dual-task gait. During single-task standing, PLLA demonstrated higher sway distance and sway velocity than controls (CN); however, a greater dual-task effect was observed only for sway velocity. Gait pace, rhythm, variability, asymmetry, and postural control were observed to be worse in PLLA relative to CN during single-task. Dual-task gait testing resulted in a disproportionally reduced pace and rhythm and increased asymmetry in PLLA compared to CN.

Conclusions: People with lower limb amputations have impaired balance and gait, which is affected by dual-task to a greater degree compared to healthy adults. An examination of how PLLA-specific factors such as level of amputation, reason for amputation, and experience with a prosthesis affect dual-task performance has not yet been thoroughly explored. Future research should continue to characterize the cognitive-mobility link to better understand the challenges associated with the use of a prosthesis.

Publication types

  • Review