Free-living gait does not differentiate chronic mTBI compared to healthy controls

Dylan Powell, Alan Godfrey, Lucy Parrington, Kody Campbell, Laurie A. King, Sam Stuart*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background
Physical function remains a crucial component of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) assessment and recovery. Traditional approaches to assess mTBI lack sensitivity to detect subtle deficits post-injury, which can impact a patient’s quality of life, daily function and can lead to chronic issues. Inertial measurement units (IMU) provide an opportunity for objective assessment of physical function and can be used in any environment. A single waist worn IMU has the potential to provide broad/macro quantity characteristics to estimate gait mobility, as well as more high-resolution micro spatial or temporal gait characteristics (herein, we refer to these as measures of quality). Our recent work showed that quantity measures of mobility were less sensitive than measures of turning quality when comparing the free-living physical function of chronic mTBI patients and healthy controls. However, no studies have examined whether measures of gait quality in free-living conditions can differentiate chronic mTBI patients and healthy controls. This study aimed to determine whether measures of free-living gait quality can differentiate chronic mTBI patients from controls.

Methods
Thirty-two patients with chronic self-reported balance symptoms after mTBI (age: 40.88 ± 11.78 years, median days post-injury: 440.68 days) and 23 healthy controls (age: 48.56 ± 22.56 years) were assessed for ~ 7 days using a single IMU at the waist on a belt. Free-living gait quality metrics were evaluated for chronic mTBI patients and controls using multi-variate analysis. Receiver operating characteristics (ROC) and Area Under the Curve (AUC) analysis were used to determine outcome sensitivity to chronic mTBI.

Results
Free-living gait quality metrics were not different between chronic mTBI patients and controls (all p > 0.05) whilst controlling for age and sex. ROC and AUC analysis showed stride length (0.63) was the most sensitive measure for differentiating chronic mTBI patients from controls.

Conclusions
Our results show that gait quality metrics determined through a free-living assessment were not significantly different between chronic mTBI patients and controls. These results suggest that measures of free-living gait quality were not impaired in our chronic mTBI patients, and/or, that the metrics chosen were not sensitive enough to detect subtle impairments in our sample.
Original languageEnglish
Article number49
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
Volume19
Issue number1
Early online date26 May 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 May 2022

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