Characterising gait over different walking speeds in patients with bilateral vestibular loss: preliminary results

Bilateral vestibular hypofunction (BVH) is a bilateral reduction or loss of vestibular function resulting in balance deficits and an increased falls risk. As part of a larger study, this experiment aimed to assess how spatiotemporal gait characteristics and their variability change across different walking speeds in patients with BVH. Nine patients (55±15y) with BVH have participated thus far. Experiments were conducted on the CAREN Extended system (Motekforce Link, Amsterdam, The Netherlands). Following multiple familiarisation trials, the participants completed five recorded two minute walking bouts at different speeds (0.6m/s, 0.8m/s, 1.0m/s, 1.2m/s and 1.4m/s). 60 strides per speed were analysed and the means, standard deviations and coefficients of variation (CV) of stride length and time, step length and width, double support time and swing phase toe clearance were calculated. Stride length, step length and toe clearance all increased with increases in walking speed (P<0.001). Stride and double support time decreased with increased walking speed (P<0.0001). No walking speed effect was found for step width (P=0.25). Significant reductions in variability with increases in walking speed were found for stride length, stride time, step length, toe clearance (P<0.01) and double support time (P<0.05). A significant increase in step width variability was observed with increases in walking speed (P=0.0033). These preliminary data suggest that while anteroposterior gait characteristics may improve in terms or variability with increases in walking speed in these patients, mediolateral motions may become more variable, which may have implications for mediolateral stability and falls risk in patients with BVH.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Gait, Neuroscience

Static postural control does not strongly predict dynamic gait stability recovery following a trip in adults with and without vestibular dysfunction

Unilateral peripheral vestibular disorder (UPVD) negatively affects upper and lower body motor performance, but postural control during quiet stance in UPVD patients has not been directly compared with dynamic stability control after an unexpected perturbation during locomotion. We analysed centre of pressure (COP) characteristics during static posturography in UPVD patients and healthy controls and compared this with performance of a trip recovery task. 17 UPVD patients and 17 healthy controls were unexpectedly tripped while walking on a treadmill. The margin of stability (MoS) was calculated at touchdown (TD) of the perturbed step and the first six recovery steps. Posturography was used to assess postural stability during 30 seconds of standing with eyes open and closed using a force plate. The trip reduced the MoS of the perturbed leg (p<0.05) with no significant differences in MoS between the groups. Controls returned to MoS baseline level in five steps and patients did not return within the six steps. UPVD patients showed a greater total COP sway path excursion (closed eyes only), anterior-posterior range of COP distance and a more posterior COP position in relation to the posterior boundary of the base of support. There were no significant correlations between COP sway path excursion and MoS values. We concluded that UPVD patients have a diminished ability to control and recover dynamic gait stability after an unexpected trip and lower static postural stability control compared to healthy matched controls, but that trip recovery and static postural control rely on different control mechanisms.
Listed In: Biomechanics, Gait, Neuroscience, Physical Therapy, Posturography