Wearables for gait and balance assessment in the neurological ward - study design and first results of a prospective cross-sectional feasibility study with 384 inpatients.
Deficits in gait and balance are common among neurological inpatients. Currently, assessment of these patients is mainly subjective. New assessment options using wearables may provide complementary and more objective information. In this prospective cross-sectional feasibility study performed over a four-month period, all patients referred to a normal neurology ward of a university hospital and aged between 40 and 89 years were asked to participate. Gait and balance deficits were assessed with wearables at the ankles and the lower back. Frailty, sarcopenia, Parkinsonism, depression, quality of life, fall history, fear of falling, physical activity, and cognition were evaluated with questionnaires and surveys. Eighty-two percent (n = 384) of all eligible patients participated. Of those, 39% (n = 151) had no gait and balance deficit, 21% (n = 79) had gait deficits, 11% (n = 44) had balance deficits and 29% (n = 110) had gait and balance deficits. Parkinson's disease, stroke, epilepsy, pain syndromes, and multiple sclerosis were the most common diseases. The assessment was well accepted. Our study suggests that the use of wearables for the assessment of gait and balance features in a clinical setting is feasible. Moreover, preliminary results confirm previous epidemiological data about gait and balance deficits among neurological inpatients. Evaluation of neurological inpatients with novel wearable technology opens new opportunities for the assessment of predictive, progression and treatment response markers.