Posturography and risk of recurrent falls in healthy non-institutionalized persons aged over 65

Séverine Buatois, René Gueguen, Gérome C Gauchard, Athanase Benetos, Philippe P Perrin
Gerontology 2006, 52 (6): 345-52

BACKGROUND: A poor postural stability in older people is associated with an increased risk of falling. The posturographic tool has widely been used to assess balance control; however, its value in predicting falls remains unclear.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this prospective study was to determine the predictive value of posturography in the estimation of the risk of recurrent falls, including a comparison with standard clinical balance tests, in healthy non-institutionalized persons aged over 65.

METHODS: Two hundred and six healthy non-institutionalized volunteers aged over 65 were tested. Postural control was evaluated by posturographic tests, performed on static, dynamic and dynamized platforms (static test, slow dynamic test and Sensory Organization Test [SOT]) and clinical balance tests (Timed 'Up & Go' test, One-Leg Balance, Sit-to-Stand-test). Subsequent falls were monitored prospectively with self-questionnaire sent every 4 months for a period of 16 months after the balance testing. Subjects were classified prospectively in three groups of Non-Fallers (0 fall), Single-Fallers (1 fall) and Multi-Fallers (more than 2 falls).

RESULTS: Loss of balance during the last trial of the SOT sensory conflicting condition, when visual and somatosensory inputs were distorted, was the best factor to predict the risk of recurrent falls (OR = 3.6, 95% CI = 1.3-10.11). Multi-Fallers showed no postural adaptation during the repetitive trials of this sensory condition, contrary to Non-Fallers and Single-Fallers. The Multi-Fallers showed significantly more sway when visual inputs were occluded. The clinical balance tests, the static test and the slow dynamic test revealed no significant differences between the groups.

CONCLUSION: In a sample of non-institutionalized older persons aged over 65, posturographic evaluation by the SOT, especially with repetition of the same task in sensory conflicting condition, compared to the clinical tests and the static and dynamic posturographic test, appears to be a more sensitive tool to identify those at high-risk of recurrent falls.

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