24 June 2020
Background: Treatment plans for Parkinson’s disease (PD) are based on a disease stage scale, which is generally determined using a manual, observational procedure. Automated, sensor-based discrimination saves labor and costs in clinical settings and may offer augmented stage determination accuracy. Previous automated devices were either cumbersome or costly and were not suitable for individuals who cannot walk without support.
Methods: Since 2017, a device has been available that successfully detects PD and operates for people who cannot walk without support. In the present study, the suitability of this device for automated discrimination of PD stages was tested. The device consists of a walking frame fitted with sensors to simultaneously support walking and monitor patient gait. Sixty-five PD patients in Hoehn and Yahr (HY) stages 1 to 4 and 24 healthy controls were subjected to supported Timed Up and Go (TUG) tests, while using the walking frame. The walking trajectory, velocity, acceleration and force were recorded by the device throughout the tests. These physical parameters were converted into symptomatic spatiotemporal quantities that are conventionally used in PD gait assessment.
Results: An analysis of variance (ANOVA) test extended by a confidence interval (CI) analysis indicated statistically significant separability between HY stages for the following spatiotemporal quantities: TUG time (p < 0.001), straight line walking time (p < 0.001), turning time (p < 0.001), and step count (p < 0.001). A negative correlation was obtained for mean step velocity (p < 0.001) and mean step length (p < 0.001). Moreover, correlations were established between these, as well as additional spatiotemporal quantities, and disease duration, L-dihydroxyphenylalanine-(L-DOPA) dose, motor fluctuation, dyskinesia and the mobile part of the Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS).
Conclusions: We have proven that stage discrimination of PD can be automated, even to patients who cannot support themselves. A similar method might be successfully applied to other gait disorders.