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Inertial sensor-based gait parameters reflect patient-reported fatigue in multiple sclerosis

  • Ibrahim, Alzhraa A.1, 2
  • Küderle, Arne1
  • Gaßner, Heiko3
  • Klucken, Jochen3, 4, 5
  • Eskofier, Bjoern M.1
  • Kluge, Felix1
  • 1 Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), Erlangen, Germany , Erlangen (Germany)
  • 2 Assiut University, Asyut, Egypt , Asyut (Egypt)
  • 3 University Hospital Erlangen, Erlangen, Bavaria, Germany , Erlangen (Germany)
  • 4 Fraunhofer Institut for Integrated Circuits, Erlangen, Bavaria, Germany , Erlangen (Germany)
  • 5 Medical Valley Digital Health Application Center, Bamberg, Bavaria, Germany , Bamberg (Germany)
Published Article
Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
Dec 18, 2020
DOI: 10.1186/s12984-020-00798-9
Springer Nature


BackgroundMultiple sclerosis (MS) is a disabling disease affecting the central nervous system and consequently the whole body’s functional systems resulting in different gait disorders. Fatigue is the most common symptom in MS with a prevalence of 80%. Previous research studied the relation between fatigue and gait impairment using stationary gait analysis systems and short gait tests (e.g. timed 25 ft walk). However, wearable inertial sensors providing gait data from longer and continuous gait bouts have not been used to assess the relation between fatigue and gait parameters in MS. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the association between fatigue and spatio-temporal gait parameters extracted from wearable foot-worn sensors and to predict the degree of fatigue.MethodsForty-nine patients with MS (32 women; 17 men; aged 41.6 years, EDSS 1.0–6.5) were included where each participant was equipped with a small Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) on each foot. Spatio-temporal gait parameters were obtained from the 6-min walking test, and the Borg scale of perceived exertion was used to represent fatigue. Gait parameters were normalized by taking the difference of averaged gait parameters between the beginning and end of the test to eliminate inter-individual differences. Afterwards, normalized parameters were transformed to principle components that were used as input to a Random Forest regression model to formulate the relationship between gait parameters and fatigue.ResultsSix principal components were used as input to our model explaining more than 90% of variance within our dataset. Random Forest regression was used to predict fatigue. The model was validated using 10-fold cross validation and the mean absolute error was 1.38 points. Principal components consisting mainly of stride time, maximum toe clearance, heel strike angle, and stride length had large contributions (67%) to the predictions made by the Random Forest.ConclusionsThe level of fatigue can be predicted based on spatio-temporal gait parameters obtained from an IMU based system. The results can help therapists to monitor fatigue before and after treatment and in rehabilitation programs to evaluate their efficacy. Furthermore, this can be used in home monitoring scenarios where therapists can monitor fatigue using IMUs reducing time and effort of patients and therapists.

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