A comparison of different balance tests in the prediction of falls in older women with vertebral fractures: a cohort study

Rob Morris, Rowan H Harwood, Ros Baker, Opinder Sahota, Sarah Armstrong, Tahir Masud
Age and Ageing 2007, 36 (1): 78-83

BACKGROUND: people with vertebral fractures are at high risk of developing hip fractures. Falls risk is important in the pathogenesis of hip fractures.

AIM: to investigate if balance tests, in conjunction with a falls history, can predict falls in older women with vertebral fractures.

METHODS: a cohort study of community-dwelling women aged over 60 years, with vertebral fractures. Balance tests investigated were: 5 m-timed-up-and-go-test (5 m-TUG), timed 10 m walk, TURN180 test (number of steps to turn 180 degrees ), tandem walk, ability to stand from chair with arms folded. Leg extensor power was also measured.

OUTCOME MEASURE: fallers (at least one fall in a 12 month follow-up period) versus non-fallers.

RESULTS: one hundred and four women aged 63-91 years [mean=78 +/- 7], were recruited. Eighty-six (83%) completed the study. Four variables were significantly associated with fallers: previous recurrent faller (2+ falls) [OR=6.52; 95% CI=1.69-25.22], 5 m-TUG test [OR=1.03; 1.00-1.06], timed 10 m walk [OR=1.07; 1.01-1.13] and the TURN180 test [OR=1.22; 1.00-1.49] [P <0.05]. Multi-variable analysis showed that only two variables, previous recurrent faller [OR=5.60; 1.40-22.45] and the 5 m-TUG test [OR=1.04; 1.00-1.08], were independently significantly associated with fallers. The optimal cut-off time for performing the 5 m-TUG test in predicting fallers was 30 s (area under ROC=60%). Combining previous recurrent faller with the 5 m-TUG improved prediction of fallers [OR=16.79, specificity=100%, sensitivity=13%].

CONCLUSIONS: a previous history of recurrent falls and the inability to perform the 5 m-TUG test within 30 s predicted falls in older women with vertebral fractures. Combining these two measures can predict fallers with a high degree of specificity (although a low sensitivity), allowing the identification of a group of patients suitable for fall and fracture prevention measures.

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