A Systematic Review of Fall Risk Factors in Stroke Survivors: Towards Improved Assessment Platforms and Protocols



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Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology


Background/Purpose: To prevent falling, a common incident with debilitating health consequences among stroke survivors, it is important to identify significant fall risk factors (FRFs) towards developing and implementing predictive and preventive strategies and guidelines. This review provides a systematic approach for identifying the relevant FRFs and shedding light on future directions of research.

Methods: A systematic search was conducted in 5 popular research databases. Studies investigating the FRFs in the stroke community were evaluated to identify the commonality and trend of FRFs in the relevant literature.

Results: twenty-seven relevant articles were reviewed and analyzed spanning the years 1995-2020. The results confirmed that the most common FRFs were age (21/27, i.e., considered in 21 out of 27 studies), gender (21/27), motion-related measures (19/27), motor function/impairment (17/27), balance-related measures (16/27), and cognitive impairment (11/27). Among these factors, motion-related measures had the highest rate of significance (i.e., 84% or 16/19). Due to the high commonality of balance/motion-related measures, we further analyzed these factors. We identified a trend reflecting that subjective tools are increasingly being replaced by simple objective measures (e.g., 10-m walk), and most recently by quantitative measures based on detailed motion analysis.

Conclusion: There remains a gap for a standardized systematic approach for selecting relevant FRFs in stroke fall risk literature. This study provides an evidence-based methodology to identify the relevant risk factors, as well as their commonalities and trends. Three significant areas for future research on post stroke fall risk assessment have been identified: 1) further exploration the efficacy of quantitative detailed motion analysis; 2) implementation of inertial measurement units as a cost-effective and accessible tool in clinics and beyond; and 3) investigation of the capability of cognitive-motor dual-task paradigms and their association with FRFs.

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