Fall Rates Among People with Multiple Sclerosis and Healthy Controls: A Comparative Study

Thursday, May 29, 2014
Trinity Exhibit Hall
Michelle H Cameron, MD, PT , Neurology, Portland VA Medical Center, Portland, OR
Rajarshi Mazumder, BS , Neurology, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR
Charles Murchison, MS , Neurology, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR

Background: Falls are common among people with multiple sclerosis (PwMS) but healthy people also fall. It is not known if the rate of falls among PwMS is different than among healthy individuals of similar age and gender.

Objectives: To compare the rates of falls over 6 months between PwMS and age matched healthy controls.

Methods: 58 PwMS and 58 age-matched healthy controls prospectively counted their falls for 6 months using fall calendars. Time to first fall and time to recurrent falls (second fall) were ascertained from the fall calendars. Time to these events was operationalized as the number of days enrolled in the study prior to the event. A Cox proportional hazards model was used to test whether time to first fall and time to recurrent falls were significantly different between PwMS and healthy controls after adjusting for age.

Results: 52 PwMS and 49 controls completed all assessments and were included in this analysis. Their mean age was 39.7 (MS) and 38.7 (controls) and the median EDSS for those with MS was 3 (Range: 0-6). 71% of PwMS and 41% of healthy controls reported at least one fall and 48.1% of PwMS and 18.4% of healthy controls reported recurrent falls. The hazard rate for the time to first fall (HR = 1.87, p=0.027) and time to recurrent falls (HR = 3.00, p=0.0042) were significantly different between people with MS and healthy controls, after controlling for age.

Conclusions: People with MS are at higher risk for falling sooner, and having recurrent falls sooner, than healthy people of the same age. Further study is required to compare the underlying physiological and environmental risk factors that predispose PwMS to fall more than people without MS.