Real-World Stair Ambulation Characteristics Differ Between Prospective Fallers and Non-Fallers in Parkinson's Disease

Nils Roth, Martin Ullrich, Arne Kuderle, Till Gladow, Franz Marxreiter, Heiko Gassner, Felix Kluge, Jochen Klucken, Bjoern M. Eskofier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Falls are among the leading causes of injuries or death for individuals from the age of 65 and the prevalence of falls is especially high for patients suffering from neurological diseases like Parkinson's disease (PD). Due to advancements in wearable sensor technology, inertial measurement units (IMUs) can be integrated unobtrusively into patients' everyday lives to monitor various mobility and gait parameters, which are related to common risk factors like reduced balance and reduced lower-limb muscle strength, or lower range of joints. Although stair ambulation is a fundamental part of our daily lives and is known for its unique challenges for the gait and balance system, long-term gait analysis studies have not investigated real-world stair ambulation parameters yet. Therefore, we applied a recently published gait analysis pipeline on real-world foot-worn IMU data of 40 PD patients over a recording period of two weeks to extract objective gait parameters from level walking but also from stair ascending and stair descending gait. In combination with fall records from a prospective three-month follow-up phase, we investigated group differences in gait parameters of future fallers compared to non-fallers for each individual gait activity. We found significant differences in stair ascending and descending parameters. Stance time was increased by up to 20% and gait speed reduced by up to 16% for fallers compared to non-fallers during stair walking. These differences were not present in level walking parameters. Hence, these results suggest that real-world stair ambulation provides sensitive parameters for mobility and fall risk due to the unique challenges stairs add to the balance and control system. Our work complements existing gait analysis studies by adding new insights into mobility and gait performance during real-world gait.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4733-4742
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics
Issue number9
Early online date27 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • ascending
  • Biomedical monitoring
  • descending
  • fall risk
  • free-living
  • gait analysis
  • Hospitals
  • inertial measurement unit
  • Legged locomotion
  • Monitoring
  • Stairs
  • Three-dimensional displays
  • Wearable sensors


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