Journal article Open Access

A wearable sensor identifies alterations in community ambulation in multiple sclerosis: contributors to real-world gait quality and physical activity

Shema-Shiratzky, Shirley; Hillel, Inbar; Mirelman, Anat; Regev, Keren; Hsieh, Katherine L.; Karni Arnon; Devos, Hannes; Sosnoff, Jacob J.; Hausdorff, Jeffrey M.

People with multiple sclerosis (pwMS) often suffer from gait impairments. These changes in gait have been well-studied in laboratory and clinical settings. A thorough investigation of gait alterations during community ambulation and their contributing factors, however, is lacking. The aim of the present study was to evaluate community ambulation and physical activity in pwMS and healthy controls and to compare in-lab gait to community ambulation. To this end, 104 subjects were studied:44 pwMS and 60 healthy controls (whose age was similar to the controls). The subjects wore a tri-axial, lower-back accelerometer during usual-walking and dual-task walking in the lab and during community ambulation (1 week) to evaluate the amount, type, and quality of activity. The results showed that during community ambulation, pwMS took fewer steps and walked more slowly, with greater asymmetry, and larger stride-to-stride variability, compared to the healthy controls (p<0.001). Gait speed during most of community ambulation was significantly lower than the in-lab usual-walking value and similar to the in-lab dual-tasking value. Significant group (pwMS /controls) by walking condition (in-lab/community ambulation) interactions were observed (e.g., gait speed). Greater disability was associated with fewer steps and reduced gait speed during community ambulation. In contrast, physical fatigue was correlated with sedentary activity but was not related to any of the measures of community ambulation gait quality including gait speed. This disparity suggests that more than one mechanism contributes to community ambulation and physical activity in pwMS. Together, these findings demonstrate that during community ambulation, pwMS have marked gait alterations in multiple gait features, reminiscent of dual-task walking measured in the laboratory. Disease-related factors associated with these changes might be targets of rehabilitation.

This work was supported by the Mobilise-D project that has received funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No. 820820. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). Content in this publication reflects the authors’ view and neither IMI nor the European Union, EFPIA, or any Associated Partners are responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.

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