Estimating fall risk with inertial sensors using gait stability measures that do not require step detection

F Riva, M J P Toebes, M Pijnappels, R Stagni, J H van Dieën
Gait & Posture 2013, 38 (2): 170-4
Falls have major consequences both at societal (health-care and economy) and individual (physical and psychological) levels. Questionnaires to assess fall risk are commonly used in the clinic, but their predictive value is limited. Objective methods, suitable for clinical application, are hence needed to obtain a quantitative assessment of individual fall risk. Falls in older adults often occur during walking and trunk position is known to play a critical role in balance control. Therefore, analysis of trunk kinematics during gait could present a viable approach to the development of such methods. In this study, nonlinear measures such as harmonic ratio (HR), index of harmonicity (IH), multiscale entropy (MSE) and recurrence quantification analysis (RQA) of trunk accelerations were calculated. These measures are not dependent on step detection, a potentially critical source of error. The aim of the present study was to investigate the association between the aforementioned measures and fall history in a large sample of subjects (42 fallers and 89 non - fallers) aged 50 or older. Univariate associations with fall history were found for MSE and RQA parameters in the AP direction; the best classification results were obtained for MSE with scale factor τ = 2 and for maximum length of diagonals in RQA (72.5% and 71% correct classifications, respectively). MSE and RQA were found to be positively associated with fall history and could hence represent useful tools in the identification of subjects for fall prevention programs.

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