Measuring walking speed may paint picture of multiple sclerosis progression

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Measuring the time it takes a person with multiple sclerosis to walk 25 feet may provide a clear picture of the progression of the disease, along with the severity of disability, according to a study published in the 30 October 2013 online issue of Neurology

“We already know that the timed 25-foot walk test is a meaningful way to measure disability in multiple sclerosis,” said study author Myla D Goldman, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, USA.

“Our study builds on that research by providing a clearer idea of how walk time can provide information about how a person’s disease progression and disability impacts their every-day activities and real-world function.”

For the study, 159 people with multiple sclerosis were given the timed 25-foot walking test and asked for information about employment, ability to do daily activities and use of canes or other devices for help with walking. The results were then confirmed in a second group of 95 people with multiple sclerosis. The study found that participants who took longer than six seconds to walk 25 feet were more likely to be unemployed, have a change in occupation due to multiple sclerosis and walking, use a cane and require assistance with daily activities such as cooking and house cleaning. For example, 59% of those who took less than six seconds to walk 25 feet were employed, compared to 29% of those who took longer than six seconds. Only 43% of the faster walkers reported a change in their occupation due to multiple sclerosis, compared to 71% of those who took more than six seconds. Those who took eight seconds or longer to complete the walk in the study were more likely unemployed, using Medicaid or Medicare, divorced, walking with a walker, and were more than 70% more likely to be unable to perform daily activities such as house cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, and cooking.

“Based on these findings, we propose that a timed 25-foot walk performance of six seconds or more and eight seconds or more represent meaningful benchmarks of multiple sclerosis progression,” Goldman said.

The study was supported by Biogen Idec and the ziMS Foundation.

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