Falls and spinal muscular atrophy: exploring cause and prevention

Jacqueline Montes, Tara L McIsaac, Sally Dunaway, Shirit Kamil-Rosenberg, Douglas Sproule, Carol Ewing Garber, Darryl C De Vivo, Ashwini K Rao
Muscle & Nerve 2013, 47 (1): 118-23

INTRODUCTION: Falls can cause injury and may compromise function in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) patients. Weakness and gait variability are associated with falls in other neurological disorders, and fatigue is well documented in SMA. The relationship of weakness, fatigue, and gait variability to falls has never been investigated.

METHODS: Seven ambulatory patients with SMA completed a falls history questionnaire, 6MWT, gait analysis, and strength testing. Pearson correlation coefficients were used to examine associations between these variables.

RESULTS: All 7 subjects reported falls in the previous year. Stride-length variability was significantly associated with falls, unlike strength, fatigue, or other gait variables.

CONCLUSIONS: Stride-length variability was the key variable associated with falls. Preventive strategies to avoid falls should be incorporated into patient management plans. Gait analysis provides actionable information not revealed by standard assessments and should be included in clinical trials designed to address the prevention of falls in the SMA population.

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