Test Combination Predicts Fall Risk in Parkinson's Disease

Overall Parkinson's disease severity, balance, and tendency to 'freeze' indicate fall risk

WEDNESDAY, June 23 (HealthDay News) -- A combination of tests on disease-specific and mobility- and balance-related measures can accurately predict which Parkinson's disease patients are more likely to fall, according to a study published online June 23 in Neurology.

Graham K. Kerr, Ph.D., of the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, and colleagues administered a battery of neurologic and functional tests to 101 medicated patients with early-stage Parkinson's disease who were able to walk without any aids. The tests included the Physiological Profile Assessment of Falls Risk, the Berg Balance Scale, the Timed Up and Go, the Tinetti, and the Functional Reach test. The cohort was then followed for six months for the incidence of falls.

The researchers found that 48 percent of participants had a fall and 24 percent had more than one fall. In multivariate analysis, the best sensitivity (78 percent) and specificity (84 percent) for predicting falls were achieved by combining the scores on a test of overall Parkinson's disease symptoms, a test indicating the patient's tendency to "freeze" when walking, and a balance test.

"Falls are a significant problem in optimally medicated early-stage Parkinson's disease. A combination of both disease-specific and balance- and mobility-related measures can accurately predict falls in individuals with Parkinson's disease," the authors write.

One study author disclosed financial ties to several pharmaceutical companies.

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Jeff Muise

Jeff Muise

Updated on June 23, 2010

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