Getting up when falling down : reducing fall risk factors after stroke through an exercise program

Abstract: The purpose of this thesis was to identify fall risk individuals (+55) after stroke by validating a fall risk index and in post-stroke individuals with high risk of falls evaluate the impact of an intervention program on fall risk factors.A previously developed fall risk index was validated, modified and re-validated. The validation showed a sensitivity of 97% and a specificity of 26%. This result was not considered sufficiently accurate. Therefore a modified index was created in the Validation sample and re-validated back in the Model fit sample. The modified index was reduced to three items and included postural stability + visuospatial hemi-inattention + male sex.The randomized controlled trial contained an intervention program (IP) with High-Intensity Functional Exercises as well as implementation these exercises in to real life situations together with educational group discussions. The participants were enrolled and randomized three to six months after their stroke. The assessments were performed at the Clinical Research Center at Norrlands University Hospital. The Intervention Group (IG) received a program of 35 sessions (exercise and group discussions) and the Control Group (CG) received five group discussions.Performing daily activities at 6 months follow-up and falls-efficacy post-intervention and at the 3 months follow-up showed significant improvement in the IG compared with the CG (p<0.05). The IP did not have a statistically significant impact on Balance or Lifestyle activities. When evaluating gait, step time variability for the paretic leg and the variability in Cycle Time for the paretic and non-paretic leg were improved for the IG. The time spent on the non –paretic leg in the gait cycles’ most stable phase, Double Support, was reduced by almost half (0.9 sec to 0.4 sec) since baseline for the IG after the intervention and remained reduced to the three month follow-up. Quality of Life showed an improvement in the CG compared with the IG for the mental scales, Mental Component Scale and Mental Health subscale at the 3 month follow-up (p=.02).In conclusion, this intervention program significantly improved performance of everyday life activities, falls-efficacy and the variability in gait. These are three major fall risk factors and might in the long run have an impact on decreasing falls in persons that had a stroke.