- Simple walking test helps in the diagnosis of dementia caused by damaged brain cells
- It differentiates between types of disorders like idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus (iNHP )and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)
- It is a very accurate and cost-effective method
Simple walking test helps in accurate diagnosis of dementia, which is often not diagnosed due to its similar symptoms with other disorders, finds a study published in the journal Neurology
This test is performed based on how fast the person walks, walking backwards and walking with a tray. It also helps to differentiate whether the person has idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus or progressive supranuclear palsy
Idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus (iNPH) is caused due to excess amount of fluid present in the brain. It is difficult to diagnose this condition because it shares similar symptoms like problems with walking, balance and thinking with other neurological conditions. Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) is caused due to nerve cell damage. This condition cannot be cured but its symptoms can be eased with the help of treatment.
‘A simple walking test may help find out whether a person has idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus (iNHP) or progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)’
"It is important that people with idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus are accurately diagnosed so they can be treated, and their health can improve," said study author Charlotte Selge, MD, of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Germany. Walking test helps to determine if the person is suffering from iNPH or PSP at the early stage of the disease. The accuracy of the diagnosis is increased by adding another task while the patients walk, to evaluate their walking ability.
This study had 27 people with iNHP, 38 people with PSP and 38 healthy individuals who were of same age and sex. The average age of individuals with PSP was 69 and those with iNHP was 72. All of them underwent complete neurological exam, MRI, eye exam, thinking and memory tests. They were able to walk about 30 feet without walker or cane.
The walking pattern of all participants was assessed, by making them walk on a pressure-sensitive carpet that was 22 feet long. First they were asked to walk at three different speeds: slow, preferred speed and fast. They were then asked to count and walk backwards at the same time. Finally, they were asked to walk while carrying a tray.
The research team found that while counting and walking backwards, the individuals with PSP showed less walking speed compared to those with iNHP. The speed was reduced by 34 percent in PSP affected people while it was 17 percent for those with iNHP. Selge said that the gait of PSP individuals was affected while they were walking with a tray and in iNPH people the walking pattern had improved.
PSP affected individuals were more sensitive to dual tasks compared to those with iNHP.
The researchers were able to accurately diagnose PSP and iNHP condition by assessing the walking pattern of the people. The dual-task test increased the accuracy of diagnosis to 97 percent.
Findings suggest that dual task tests are an inexpensive and effective way to diagnose iNHP. "Future studies may want to increase the complexity of tasks to see if they provide even more accuracy as well as insight into how the two diseases affect gait."
Dementia is type of brain disease caused due to the damage of brain nerve cells. The symptoms are decline in thinking ability, communication problems and memory loss. There are different types of dementia like vascular dementia, mixed dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.