Falls are common following stroke and are frequently related to deficits in balance and mobility. This study aimed to investigate the predictive strength of gait and balance variables for evaluating post-stroke falls risk over 12 months following rehabilitation discharge.
A prospective cohort study was undertaken in inpatient rehabilitation centres based in Australia and Singapore. A consecutive sample of 81 individuals (mean age 63 years; median 24 days post stroke) were assessed within one week prior to discharge. In addition to comfortable gait speed over six metres (6mWT), a depth-sensing camera (Kinect) was used to obtain fast-paced gait speed, stride length, cadence, step width, step length asymmetry, gait speed variability, and mediolateral and vertical pelvic displacement. Balance variables were the step test, timed up and go (TUG), dual-task TUG, and Wii Balance Board-derived centre of pressure velocity during static standing. Falls data were collected using monthly calendars.
Over 12 months, 28% of individuals fell at least once. The faller group had increased TUG time and reduced stride length, gait speed variability, mediolateral and vertical pelvic displacement, and step test scores (P < 0.001-0.048). Significant predictors, when adjusted for country, prior falls and assistance (i.e., physical assistance and/or gait aid use) were stride length, step length asymmetry, mediolateral pelvic displacement, step test and TUG scores (P < 0.040; IQR-odds ratio(OR) = 1.37-7.85). With comfortable gait speed as an additional covariate, to determine the additive benefit over standard clinical assessment, only mediolateral pelvic displacement, TUG and step test scores remained significant (P = 0.001-0.018; IQR-OR = 5.28-10.29).
Reduced displacement of the pelvis in the mediolateral direction during walking was the strongest predictor of post-stroke falls compared with other gait variables. Dynamic balance measures, such as the TUG and step test, may better predict falls than gait speed or static balance measures.