Open Access Research

Objective assessment of motor fatigue in multiple sclerosis using kinematic gait analysis: a pilot study

Aida Sehle1, Annegret Mündermann12, Klaus Starrost3, Simon Sailer3, Inna Becher4, Christian Dettmers5* and Manfred Vieten1

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Sport Science, Universität Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany

2 School of Physiotherapy, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

3 Kliniken Schmieder Allensbach, Allensbach, Germany

4 Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany

5 Kliniken Schmieder Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany

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Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation 2011, 8:59  doi:10.1186/1743-0003-8-59

Published: 26 October 2011

Abstract

Background

Fatigue is a frequent and serious symptom in patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). However, to date there are only few methods for the objective assessment of fatigue. The aim of this study was to develop a method for the objective assessment of motor fatigue using kinematic gait analysis based on treadmill walking and an infrared-guided system.

Patients and methods

Fourteen patients with clinically definite MS participated in this study. Fatigue was defined according to the Fatigue Scale for Motor and Cognition (FSMC). Patients underwent a physical exertion test involving walking at their pre-determined patient-specific preferred walking speed until they reached complete exhaustion. Gait was recorded using a video camera, a three line-scanning camera system with 11 infrared sensors. Step length, width and height, maximum circumduction with the right and left leg, maximum knee flexion angle of the right and left leg, and trunk sway were measured and compared using paired t-tests (α = 0.005). In addition, variability in these parameters during one-minute intervals was examined. The fatigue index was defined as the number of significant mean and SD changes from the beginning to the end of the exertion test relative to the total number of gait kinematic parameters.

Results

Clearly, for some patients the mean gait parameters were more affected than the variability of their movements while other patients had smaller differences in mean gait parameters with greater increases in variability. Finally, for other patients gait changes with physical exertion manifested both in changes in mean gait parameters and in altered variability. The variability and fatigue indices correlated significantly with the motoric but not with the cognitive dimension of the FSMC score (R = -0.602 and R = -0.592, respectively; P < 0.026).

Conclusions

Changes in gait patterns following a physical exertion test in patients with MS suffering from motor fatigue can be measured objectively. These changes in gait patterns can be described using the motor fatigue index and represent an objective measure to assess motor fatigue in MS patients. The results of this study have important implications for the assessments and treatment evaluations of fatigue in MS.