With a growing aging population of the world, it is becoming increasingly necessary for healthcare professionals to focus on the well-being and daily function of the elderly. One assessment of functional mobility is the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test which consists of a patient starting from the sitting position, standing up, walking in a straight line for three meters, then making a 180° turn to walk and return to the chair to the sitting position. The test itself is fairly simple – shorter completion time translates to better performance- and results are used as an indicator of functional decline.
One way to implement the TUG test is with a stop watch to measure the duration of the various phases of the test: transitions of sit-to-stand and stand-to-sit, walking in a straight line, and turning around. While this method provides some data on the functional mobility of a patient, the use of an inertial measurement unit (IMU) device provides more thorough, quantitative data such as tri-axial acceleration and angular velocity. These data are specific to the subphases of the test which each exemplify activities of daily living (ADL’s). Furthermore, it has been found that instrumented TUG tests are more accurate. The G-WALK system from BTS Bioengineering utilizes such a device, implementing a light-weight sensor and straight-forward software with built-in functional protocols relating to mobility.
A study was completed in 2017 in Poland which aimed to assess the variables of a TUG test and other functional mobility tests assessing the strength of the lower limbs. The study included women in a nursing home. Muscle strength tests were performed in addition to other mobility movement protocols included with the G-WALK system: 30-second stand test and the 6-minute walking test. The G-WALK was attached to the patient with a belt, without wires or other obstructions of movement. The simple design of the sensor allows for freedom of movement while acquiring and presenting meaningful data for functional assessment.
The results of the instrumented TUG test correlated with the patients age. Furthermore, it was found through statistical analysis that the best predictor of age was the sit-to-stand vertical acceleration range which correlated the best with the patient’s age. It was also stated that these data can help assess the risk of falling. Past studies have indicated that weakness of muscles as well as disordered gait and balance are important factors in fall-risk assessment and can thusly be utilized with such tests.
These findings have practical applications for nurses, home aids, nursing home staff and other healthcare professionals who work with the elderly population. Such providers can better improve the well being and daily function of such elderly patients by understanding the decrease in muscle strength and instability that occurs with age. With this knowledge, elderly patients may receive therapy and assistance for proper technique of daily activities such as in sit-to-stand motions and bending over. From this study, we can see how the use of the G-WALK provides meaningful data on the functional mobility of elderly patients, informing and thusly improving care and rehabilitation plans.
This post was based on the following article, cited:
Zarzeczny, R., Nawrat-Szołtysik, A., Polak, A. et al. Biogerontology (2017) 18: 651. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10522-017-9717-5