Objective measures of balance and gait have the potential to improve prediction of future fallers because balance and gait impairments are common precursors. We used the Instrumented Stand and Walk Test (ISAW) with wearable, inertial sensors to maximize the domains of balance and gait evaluated in a short test. We hypothesized that ISAW objective measures across a variety of gait and balance domains would improve fall prediction beyond history of falls and better than gait speed or dual-task cost on gait-speed. We recruited 214 high-functioning older men (mean 82 years), of whom 91 participants (42.5%) had one or more falls in the 12 months following the ISAW test. The ISAW test involved 30 s of stance followed by a 7-m walk, turn, and return. We examined regression models for falling using 17 ISAW metrics, with and without age and fall history, and characterize top-performing models by AUC and metrics included. The ISAW test improved distinguishing between future fallers and non-fallers compared to age and history of falls, alone (AUC improved from 0.69 to 0.75). Models with 1 ISAW metric usually included a postural sway measure, models with 2 ISAW measures included a turning measure, models with 3 ISAW measures included a gait variability measure, and models with 4 or 5 measures added a gait initiation measure. Gait speed and dual-task cost did not distinguish between fallers and non-fallers in this high-functioning cohort. The best fall-prediction models support the notion that older people may fall due to a variety of balance and gait impairments.
Keywords: Balance; Fall risk assessment; Gait; Prospective falls; Wearable sensors.
© 2022. The Author(s).