Wearable Movement Sensor Suitable for Gait Analysis Outside Lab

The Physilog 5 device was deemed effective at assessing real-life walking patterns

Vanda Pinto, PhD avatar

by Vanda Pinto, PhD |

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A woman walks as part of a physical fitness program.

A wearable sensor called Physilog 5 is practical and efficient for monitoring gait in children with Angelman syndrome and in Prader–Willi syndrome (PWS), another rare neurodevelopmental disorder, a small study suggests.

These “real-world” measures “have potential advantages for children with disability, who may have difficulty accessing gait laboratories, and who may not be comfortable being assessed in the laboratory setting,” the researchers wrote.

The study, “Feasibility of wearable technology for ‘real-world’ gait analysis in children with Prader–Willi and Angelman syndromes,” was published in the Journal of Intellectual Disability Research.

Angelman syndrome is a genetic disorder that results in developmental delays, intellectual impairments, and problems with movement. Almost all patients have motor symptoms that may include lack of coordination and balance, spasticity, and tremors. Walking is usually delayed until ages 3–5 in children with Angelman, and their gait can be unsteady and crouched, which causes difficulties or abnormalities with walking.

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Developmental delay is also a feature of PWS. Both are caused by changes in genes found in a specific region of the long arm of chromosome 15. Children with PWS usually begin walking at age 2 and may also have problems with gait.

According to researchers, studying walking patterns may be clinically beneficial. By monitoring and identifying gait problems in children with Angelman, doctors may be able to develop strategies to avoid using a wheelchair. “Gait assessments could also be used as an outcome measure in clinical trials,” the researchers wrote.

A study led by researchers in Australia investigated whether walking patterns in children with Angelman and PWS could be assessed outside the lab with the wearable movement sensor Physilog 5. The goal was to compare real-world data with data collected in a lab setting.

Five children with Angelman and nine with PWS, aged between 6–16, were recruited from a previous study named FREE FX. Participants used Gait Up Physilog 5 movement sensors on their running or leisure shoes that were turned on remotely by the researchers and data was recorded continuously during each assessment.

For Angelman patients, real-world assessments consisted of either assisted short walks at home or at the research center, or an assisted long walk at the hospital.

The team then compared the results for stride time, cadence, stance percentage (indicating a pause), and stride length. Stride time is defined as the time passed between the first contact of two consecutive footsteps of the same foot while stride length is the distance between two successive placements of the same foot.

Results showed all participants were able to complete at least one assessment, demonstrating that using a wearable device to monitor gait was feasible.

Also, three specific gait parameters — mean stance percentage, mean stride length, and stance percentage coefficient of variation — from the real-world tests agreed with those determined as part of a lab setting.

“In conclusion, this study demonstrated that it is feasible to use Physilog wearable to measure gait performance in children with PWS and AS in ‘real-world’ settings,” the researchers wrote, noting their findings support “further research into gait assessment outside the laboratory.”