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Tests Help Predict Which Parkinson's Patients Are Likely to Fall

Study suggests they could help prevent serious accidents

WEDNESDAY, June 23, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Tests that can predict the risk a Parkinson's patient has of falling are outlined in a new study.

"Falls are a major problem for people with Parkinson's disease and can lead to injuries and reduced mobility, which can result in increasing weakness, loss of independence and increased use of nursing homes," Graham K. Kerr, of Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia, said in an American Academy of Neurology news release.

"Despite these issues and their impact on the health care system and society, little research has been done to help predict which people with Parkinson's disease are more likely to fall so we can try to prevent these falls," he added.

In this study, Kerr and colleagues tested disease symptoms, balance and mobility in 101 patients who reported any falls in the six-month study period. Forty-eight percent reported a fall, and 24 percent reported more than one fall.

Tests that best predicted the risk of a fall included a test of overall Parkinson's symptoms, a questionnaire that asked how often patients tended to "freeze" while walking, and a test of balance. Combined, these tests had a sensitivity of 78 percent and a specificity of 84 percent for predicting falls.

"These tests are easy to implement and take only a short time to complete," Kerr said. "Once we can identify those at risk of falling, we can take steps to try to prevent these falls."

The study is published in the June 23 online issue of Neurology.

More information

We Move has more about Parkinson's disease.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, June 23, 2010
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