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UVA Researchers Use Timed Walk to Gauge Effects of MS - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

UVA Researchers Use Timed Walk to Gauge Effects of MS

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va (WVIR) -

Just a short walk can offer key insight in evaluating multiple sclerosis. University of Virginia researchers are gaining invaluable information based on how fast a patient crosses the finish line.

It is a 25-foot timed test. Just a couple of seconds may be the difference in whether a patient with MS can perform daily home activities or is totally disabled. It can also show how well medication works.

“The timed 25-foot walk is simply having an individual walk 25 feet and you time them,” said Dr. Myla Goldman, director of UVA’s James Q. Miller MS Clinic.

MS patients often have trouble walking. Goldman and a team of researchers gave the walking test to 159 MS patients and had them fill out surveys that measured quality-of-life issues - such as their ability to work, depression level, ability to walk and their disability.

“What we didn't know was what a specific time, for example six seconds, meant to an individual patient compared to eight seconds,” said Goldman.

UVA researchers found out that two-second difference can mean a lot.

“We found that individuals who are walking slower than six seconds are more likely to be unemployed, more likely to have a change in their occupation due to multiple sclerosis or walking, and also more likely to require assistance for activities in the home,” said Goldman.

People who took more than eight seconds to walk 25 feet were more likely to be divorced and accept government assistance. 

Also the eight-second walkers were by and large found to need assistance for everyday tasks like laundry or cooking.

The study helps doctors accurately gauge what their patients can do.

“So we are able to take a small bit of information - speed across 25 feet - and learn about what might be happening for that patient at home in a way that is meaningful for them,” said Goldman.

But even more importantly, it may lead to more effective treatment.

“If their walk time changes, we know that the change in walk time has real world impact,” said Goldman.

Dr. Goldman says that she is already looking to the next stage of the research that examines how each move in that 25- foot distance translates to performing real world functions.

University of Virginia Health System Press Release

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Nov. 8, 2013 – How fast multiple sclerosis (MS) patients complete a 25-foot walk can provide insight into the disease’s impact on their lives, according to a new study led by a University of Virginia School of Medicine neurologist.

“One of the most important things we found was that this single test could provide so much information about a patient’s experience in the real world,” said Myla Goldman, MD, director of UVA’s James Q. Miller Multiple Sclerosis Clinic.

Multiple sclerosis occurs when the body’s immune system attacks healthy nerves, causing a host of disabling symptoms. One of the most common and challenging symptoms for MS patients is difficulty walking, Goldman said.

Establishing Quality-of-Life Benchmarks

A timed 25-foot walk is considered one of the better measures for determining how much a patient’s MS has progressed, but previous research had not yet connected performance on the walk to how MS affected patients on a day-to-day basis.

Goldman and her research team gave the walking test to 159 MS patients and had them fill out surveys that measured quality-of-life issues such as their ability to work, depression level, ability to walk and their disability. The preliminary quality-of-life benchmarks were then confirmed in a second study of 95 different MS patients.

What the Benchmarks Mean for Patients

The benchmarks identified through the study divided MS patients into three groups: Patients who completed the walk in less than six seconds, patients who completed the walk between six and eight seconds and patients who took more than eight seconds to finish the walk.

The study found that patients who take between six and eight seconds to complete the walk are significantly more likely to:

· Be unemployed

· Change their job due to the effects of MS

· Need a cane while walking

· Need help performing everyday tasks such as housework and cooking meals

MS patients who took more than eight seconds to complete the walk are significantly more likely to:

· Be divorced

· Receive Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid or Medicare

· Need a walker while walking

· Be unable to perform everyday tasks such as housework and cooking meals

“This information gives us a better understanding of how patients are doing now and what difficulties they may begin to experience in the future,” Goldman said.

Biogen and the ziMS Foundation provided funding for the study.

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