Postural sway, falls, and self-reported neuropathy in aging female cancer survivors

Peter C Fino, Fay B Horak, Mahmoud El-Gohary, Carolyn Guidarelli, Mary E Medysky, Sarah J Nagle, Kerri M Winters-Stone
Gait & Posture 2019 January 17, 69: 136-142

BACKGROUND: Falls are a major public health concern in older adults, and the proportion of older adults that has been diagnosed with cancer is growing. Yet, while falls, peripheral neuropathy, and postural instability are more common in aging cancer survivors, it is unclear how these factors interact.

RESEARCH QUESTION: Our objective was to examine how components of sway related to self-reported neuropathy and falls.

METHODS: Postural sway during static stance was recorded with an inertial sensor (APDM Opal), placed on the lumbar spine region in 434 older female cancer survivors (mean age 63) and 49 healthy older female control subjects (mean age 63). Measures of sway were resolved into principal components that were compared between women with and women without self-reported falls in the previous 6 months and between those with and without self-reported symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.

RESULTS: Cancer survivors had worse sway than healthy control subjects in components related to sway magnitude and mediolateral frequency of sway, but no difference in the component related to resultant / AP sway jerk and frequency. Cancer survivors who reported neuropathy were more likely to have higher resultant / AP sway frequencies and jerk than asymptomatic survivors, while survivors who reported a fall were more likely to have lower frequencies of mediolateral sway than non-fallers. Falls were more strongly associated with mediolateral sway in survivors with more severe neuropathy; whereas falls were more strongly associated with resultant / AP sway frequency in survivors with less severe neuropathy SIGNIFICANCE: Postural stability, falls, and neuropathy have complex interactions that can vary across components of postural sway. While the frequency of mediolateral sway was associated with falls across our entire cohort, neuropathy influenced the associations between specific characteristics of sway and falls, which may have implications for fall prevention interventions.

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