Don’t you just love the walking test when you see your neurologist for your annual exam? “Let’s see how fast you can walk to me,” she says. The test is called the T25-FW, and it measures how long it takes you to walk 25 feet.
But, what about how well you walk? There’s no objective test to measure your gait. Neurologists do assess how well you walk, of course, but it’s a subjective measurement. Two different doctors may assess a patient’s gait differently.
Digital video can do it better
This past week, researchers at McGill University in Canada reported on their study in which they used an inexpensive camera to objectively measure the gait of MS patients. It’s Microsoft’s Kinect. That’s a 3-D camera used for video games such as tennis and dancing … games that require a camera that’s able to sense depth. It can be hooked up to an Xbox or used with a computer running Windows. As an MS patient walks, the camera feeds his or her movements into the computer, where an algorithm assesses the walking patterns. Doing that removes the human subjectivity from the assessment.
A more precise way to assess gait
Being able to mathematically define different severity levels of a patient’s gait this way, says Daria Trojan, a physiatrist at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, could be useful in determining how well certain treatments are working. It could objectively “assess treatment effects of certain interventions such as rehabilitation or medication, and to document MS disease progression as reflected by gait deterioration,” says Trojan. “It may also be useful as a measure in clinical trials.”
Of course, a video of this is worth a thousand of my words.
In their study, the McGill researchers captured the movement of 10 MS patients.They say their next step will be to conduct a study with a larger group of MS patients, including evaluation in a gait laboratory and using a newer version of the Kinect device for better accuracy.
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