Diagnostic accuracy of fall risk assessment tools in people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy

Stephen D. Jernigan, Patricia S. Pohl, Jonathan D. Mahnken, Patricia M. Kluding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Background. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy affects nearly half of individuals with diabetes and leads to increased fall risk. Evidence addressing fall risk assessment for these individuals is lacking. Objective. The purpose of this study was to identify which of 4 functional mobility fall risk assessment tools best discriminates, in people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, between recurrent "fallers" and those who are not recurrent fallers. Design. A cross-sectional study was conducted. Setting. The study was conducted in a medical research university setting. Participants. The participants were a convenience sample of 36 individuals between 40 and 65 years of age with diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Measurements. Fall history was assessed retrospectively and was the criterion standard. Fall risk was assessed using the Functional Reach Test, the Timed "Up & Go" Test, the Berg Balance Scale, and the Dynamic Gait Index. Sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative likelihood ratios, and overall diagnostic accuracy were calculated for each fall risk assessment tool. Receiver operating characteristic curves were used to estimate modified cutoff scores for each fall risk assessment tool; indexes then were recalculated. Results. Ten of the 36 participants were classified as recurrent fallers. When traditional cutoff scores were used, the Dynamic Gait Index and Functional Reach Test demonstrated the highest sensitivity at only 30%; the Dynamic Gait Index also demonstrated the highest overall diagnostic accuracy. When modified cutoff scores were used, all tools demonstrated improved sensitivity (80% or 90%). Overall diagnostic accuracy improved for all tests except the Functional Reach Test; the Timed "Up & Go" Test demonstrated the highest diagnostic accuracy at 88.9%. Limitations. The small sample size and retrospective fall history assessment were limitations of the study. Conclusions. Modified cutoff scores improved diagnostic accuracy for 3 of 4 fall risk assessment tools when testing people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1461-1470
Number of pages10
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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