Objective: Quantification and evaluation of five neurological balance tests as part of the routine neurological examination in order to obtain objective test results for healthy individuals and several neurological patient groups.
Setting: Department of neurology, University Hospital Groningen, the Netherlands.
Design: Prospective, controlled study.
Methods: 220 subjects (113 healthy individuals and 107 neurological patients) participated in a balance test investigation comprising gang board, Romberg's test, tandem gait, one-leg-stance, hopping. Tests were performed on a hopscotch (3 meters long, divided in 6 rectangles of 20 by 50 cm) and using a stopwatch to register times and faults.
Results: All five quantified tests were feasible for healthy individuals. Up to the age of 70 results gradually declined, above 70 a strong decline was observed. Patients with gait and balance disorders performed less well in all tests except the Romberg's test.
Conclusions: Taking into account a strict standardisation of these five existing tests standard values were obtained for a fast and simple quantification of balance in the routine neurological examination, which can also be used to monitor progress. Especially the results obtained in tandem gait, one-leg-stance and hopping differ significantly between healthy individuals and patients. The gang board appears to be useful for quantifying serious balance disorders. Romberg's test is a specific test for the perceptual sensibility and does not belong in the routine neurological examination of balance.