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Open Access Short Report

Automated detection of near falls: algorithm development and preliminary results

Aner Weiss14, Ilan Shimkin4, Nir Giladi15 and Jeffrey M Hausdorff123*

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory for Gait & Neurodynamics & Movement Disorders Unit, Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Tel-Aviv, Israel

2 Dept of Physical Therapy, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel

3 Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

4 Dept of Electrical Engineering, Tel Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel

5 Dept of Neurology, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel

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BMC Research Notes 2010, 3:62  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-3-62

Published: 5 March 2010

Abstract

Background

Falls are a major source of morbidity and mortality among older adults. Unfortunately, self-report is, to a large degree, the gold-standard method for characterizing and quantifying fall frequency. A number of studies have demonstrated that near falls predict falls and that near falls may occur more frequently than falls. These studies suggest that near falls might be an appropriate fall risk measure. However, to date, such investigations have also relied on self-report. The purpose of the present study was to develop a method for automatic detection of near falls, potentially a sensitive, objectivemarker of fall risk and to demonstrate the ability to detect near falls using this approach.

Findings

15 healthy subjects wore a tri-axial accelerometer on the pelvis as they walked on a treadmill under different conditions. Near falls were induced by placing obstacles on the treadmill and were defined using observational analysis. Acceleration-derived parameters were examined as potential indicators of near falls, alone and in various combinations. 21 near falls were observed and compared to 668 "non-near falls" segments, consisting of normal and abnormal (but not near falls) gait. The best single method was based on the maximum peak-to-peak vertical acceleration derivative, with detection rates better than 85% sensitivity and specificity.

Conclusions

These findings suggest that tri-axial accelerometers may be used to successfully distinguish near falls from other gait patterns observed in the gait laboratory and may have the potential for improving the objective evaluation of fall risk, perhaps both in the lab and in at home-settings.