The aim of this study was to evaluate if the Biodex Fall Risk Assessment could provide an age-adjusted index useful for classifying patients at "risk of fall." This was a cohort study conducted on 61 chronic patients, in stable conditions, having a history of ataxia, difficulty in walking or loss of balance, and aged >64 years. These patients were coming from home to our Institute undergoing a period of in-hospital standard rehabilitation. Assessment of clinical parameters was performed at entry. Functional scales (Functional Independence Measure [FIM] for motor and cognitive function, Barthel G, Tinetti POMA), and the Biodex Fall Risk Index (FRI) were performed at entry and discharge. The Normalized FRI, obtained adjusting FRI to the reported maximum predictive FRI for the relevant age, identified 2 types of patients: those with a greater risk of fall than expected for that age, labeled Case 1 (Normalized FRI>1); and those with an equal or even lesser risk of fall than expected for that age, labeled Case 0 (Normalized FRI-1). FRI, Normalized FRI as well as independent variables as age, sex, pathology group, FIM, BarthelG, were considered in a multiple regression analysis to predict the functional improvement (i.e., delta Tinetti Total score) after rehabilitation. Normalized FRI is useful in assessing patients at risk of falls both before and after rehabilitation. At admission, the Normalized FRI evidenced high fall risk in 46% of patients (Case 1) which decreased to 12% after rehabilitation, being greater than age-predicted in 7 patients (Case 1-1) despite the functional improvement observed after the rehabilitation treatment. Normalized FRI evidenced Case 1-1 patients as neurological, "very old" (86% in age-group 75-84 years), and with serious events at 18 to 24 months' follow-up. Normalized FRI, but not FRI, at admission was a predictor of improvement in Tinetti Total scores. The normalized FRI effectively indicated patients at higher risk of fall, in whom health deterioration, falls, or cognitive decline was later documented at follow-up. The normalized FRI could be a standardized measure for identifying frailer patients becoming a further criterium of discharge home and marker of fall risk at home.
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