There is a great need for better measures to objectively document changes in disease progression for Friedreich's Ataxia. The purpose of this pilot study was to analyze longitudinal changes in gait and balance in subjects with FA using the GAITRite Walkway System® and Biodex Balance System™, respectively, and to test the ability of these measures to detect change over time compared to the Friedreich's Ataxia Rating Scale (FARS).
This was a 24-month longitudinal study comparing ambulatory FA subjects with age- and gender-matched, healthy controls. Eight FA subjects and 8 controls were tested at regular intervals using the GAITRite and Biodex Balance systems and the FARS.
In the FA group, comfortable and fast gait velocity declined 8.0% and 13.9% after 12 months and 24.1% and 30.3% after 24 months, respectively. Postural stability indices increased in FA subjects an average of 41% from baseline to 24 months, representing a decline in balance. Subjects with FA also demonstrated a 17.7% increase in FARS neurological exam scores over 24 months. There were no changes in gait or balance variables in controls. In the FA group, multiple gait and balance measures correlated significantly with FARS neurological exam scores.
The GAITRite and Biodex Balance systems provided objective and clinically relevant measures of functional decline in subjects with FA that correlated significantly with performance measures in the FARS. Gait velocity may be an important objective measure to identify disease progression in adults with FA.
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